Hyundai Elantra owner Gabrielle Lawton says criminals shot her in the chest because of Hyundai.

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Hyundai Stolen Vehicle Lawsuit: The Gabrielle Lawton Shooting
Hyundai Elantra owner Gabrielle Lawton says criminals shot her in the chest because of Hyundai.

— A Hyundai Elantra stolen vehicle lawsuit has been dismissed after Missouri Hyundai owner Gabrielle Lawton was shot in the chest by criminals trying to steal her Elantra in April 2023.

Plaintiff Lawton says it is Hyundai's fault for her gunshot to the chest because her 2018 Hyundai Elantra wasn't equipped with an engine immobilizer, an anti-theft device that helps prevent against theft.

However, immobilizers are not required in the U.S., and until 2022, most of the top 10 most stolen vehicles in the nation were equipped with immobilizers.

According to the stolen vehicle lawsuit, the 2018 Hyundai Elantra was designed in a way which allegedly made it easy to steal.

In 2021, teenage criminals began posting videos online of the teens breaking a window, destroying the steering column, removing the ignition lock and starting a Hyundai or Kia vehicle with a standard USB cable.

The videos "challenged" other teens to break into and steal Hyundai and Kia vehicles, record the action and post their own vehicles online.

In lawsuits against Hyundai and Kia, the automakers are blamed for the theft problem, not the teen criminals who damaged and stole the vehicles.

In the case of Gabrielle Lawton, the lawsuit alleges Hyundai and up to 50 unnamed "John Doe" defendants are to blame for the shooting.

According to the Hyundai lawsuit, thieves attempted to steal the Elantra from the driveway outside Lawton's home, but she heard them from her kitchen and “yelled out her window to try and scare [them] off.” In response, the thieves shot Lawton through the window.

"Because Defendant’s cars do not have an immobilizer, and '[w]ith the rise of a viral TikTok video trend that taught people how to use a screwdriver and a USB cable to break into [Defendant’s] cars and steal them, there has been a nationwide epidemic of [Defendant’s] cars being stolen.'” — Hyundai stolen vehicle lawsuit

Hyundai Elantra Stolen Vehicle Lawsuit Dismissed

In its motion to dismiss the lawsuit, Hyundai argues under Missouri law it did not owe the plaintiff a duty to protect her from the shooting. Hyundai also argues the claims must be dismissed because its conduct was not the "proximate cause" of Lawton’s injuries.

Judge Beth Phillips agreed and dismissed the lawsuit.

Plaintiff Lawton asserts Hyundai had a duty to prevent her from suffering physical harm by car thieves in the course of criminal conduct. But according to the judge, Hyundai never issued any warranties to protect the plaintiff from criminal assault.

"Defendant [Hyundai] did not have a duty to protect Plaintiff from getting shot by car thieves." — Judge Phillips

The judge moved on to the argument that Hyundai should have "foreseen a thief might shoot the owner of a car he was trying to steal."

According to the judge, the design of the Elantra was not the "proximate cause" of Lawton’s injuries from being shot by criminals.

"The thief’s independent conduct of shooting Plaintiff was an intervening cause that precludes proximate cause under the facts alleged by Plaintiff."

The judge notes the Missouri Court of Appeals has found, “there remains consensus that liability should not be lightly assessed when the injury would not have happened but for criminal conduct.”

In dismissing the Hyundai stolen vehicle lawsuit, Judge Phillips ruled the plaintiff hasn't alleged "any facts permitting a plausible inference that Defendant should have foreseen someone trying to steal her car would have shot her with a gun."

Even if the lawsuit did allege such facts, the judge found they would not be good enough to "establish proximate cause as a matter of law because the chain of causation involved two distinct criminal acts by third parties."

“Here the chain of causation included three acts over which the [defendant] had no control, two of which were serious crimes.”  — Judge Phillips

The Hyundai stolen vehicle lawsuit was originally filed in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Orange, then removed to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California: Gabrielle Lawton v. Hyundai Motor America, Inc., et al.

The plaintiff is represented by TLO Law.

Read about other Hyundai/Kia stolen vehicle lawsuits:


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