A Kansas City mom was shot in the chest by car thieves. Now, she is suing Hyundai.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - Gabrielle Lawton was shot in the chest in April. Doctors said the bullet is too dangerous to remove from her lung, so it remains lodged in her chest.
It’s a constant reminder of that night.
“I had no idea that this was even like a thing out here, that people were breaking into these cars. And how I found out was — I was shot,” said Gabrielle Lawton.
Gabrielle was up in the middle of the night grabbing a bottle of milk for her infant son when she heard something in her driveway. She peeked out the window and saw two men trying to steal her car.
“You hear gunshots and my baby is upstairs. It was just so much at one time,” said Gabrielle.
The young mother is now fully healed but spent more than a month in the hospital from the gunshot and subsequent infection.
“I have to constantly be in a state of gratefulness that he wasn’t with me that I’m here that I get to see him and we made it to the hospital,” said Gabrielle.
What happened to Gabrielle is now the basis for a new lawsuit against Hyundai.
What the lawsuit argues
The lawsuit is similar to other lawsuits filed against both Hyundai and Kia.
It argues the company chose profit over safety and did not install a $200 part called an engine immobilizer. An engine immobilizer makes it more difficult to steal cars.
“Hyundai and Kia gambled that by that they could make a couple hundred extra bucks per car by putting people’s lives at risk. But what Hyundai and Kia forgot is that safety is not expensive. It’s priceless,” said attorney Jim Thompson.
Gabrielle’s lawyers argue Hyundai could have issued a recall when it became obvious KIA’s and Hyundais were being targeted by thieves. He points out the problem was well known to the company and law enforcement at the time of Gabrielle’s shooting.
“Gabby’s not the only person this has happened to. I mean, there have been multiple deaths across the country related to the thefts of these vehicles,” said attorney Bobby Thompson.
Kansas City’s car theft problem
Kansas City is similar to other communities when it comes to car thefts. Kias and Hyundais are targeted by thieves.
Many blame social media for spreading information about how easy it is to steal these cars — and even offering how-to videos.
Kansas City recently sued Kia and Hyundai, saying the rash of thefts endanger Kansas City and strain public services.
During 2019 in Kansas City 1,207 Kias and Hyundais were stolen, compared to 6,120 in 2022. The vehicle thefts spiked in the second half of 2022 with the pace of thefts jumping 288% and worsening in 2023, according to the lawsuit.
KCPD is still investigating who is responsible for Gabrielle’s shooting.
KCTV5 Investigates reached out to Hyundai for a response.
The company sent a lengthy statement saying it is committed to the “quality and integrity of our products.”
Hyundai Motor America is committed to ensuring the quality and integrity of our products. A subset of Hyundai vehicles on the road in the U.S. today – primarily “base trim” or entry-level models – are not equipped with push-button ignitions and immobilizing anti-theft devices. It is important to clarify that an engine immobilizer is an anti-theft device and these vehicles are fully compliant with federal anti-theft requirements. Thieves discovered a specific method by which to bypass the vehicles’ security features and then documented and promoted their exploits on TikTok and other social media channels.
In response, Hyundai has taken comprehensive action to assist our customers, including: (1) Made engine immobilizers standard on all vehicles produced as of November 2021; (2) Developed a software upgrade to equip these vehicles with an “ignition kill” feature designed to prevent the popularized method of theft; (3) Rolled out the free anti-theft software upgrade to all of the nearly 4 million vehicles involved – two months ahead of the original schedule – through a service campaign to affected customers who own or lease model year 2011-2022 vehicles; (4) Launched a dedicated website HyundaiAntiTheft.com, toll-free number (888) 498-0390 and digital advertising to generate awareness of the software upgrade, help customers determine their eligibility, and schedule an appointment at their local Hyundai dealership; (5) Initiated a program to reimburse affected customers for their purchase of steering wheel locks, including for a smaller group of 2011-2022 model year vehicles that cannot accommodate the software upgrade; (6) Established a program to provide free steering wheel locks to law enforcement agencies across the country for distribution to local residents who own or lease the affected vehicles; (7) Collaborated with AAA insurers on a program to offer insurance options for affected owners and lessees. As part of this collaboration, AAA insurers will issue new and renewal policies for eligible affected Hyundai customers. The program will be available in all states with the exception of those states where AAA does not offer insurance. (e.g., Alaska, , Massachusetts, Washington); (8) Recently piloted mobile service centers in Washington, D.C. (Link), St. Louis County, MO (Link) and plans to replicate in additional markets through year-end to further scale and speed installation of the software upgrade.
Hyundai is committed to continuing our efforts in completing the software upgrade for all affected vehicles in the most effective manner possible. We are communicating with NHTSA on our many actions to assist our customers.
It points out there is now a free software upgrade and they are distributing free steering wheel locks through local police departments.
Hyundai has a dedicated website HyundaiAntiTheft.com and toll-free number (888) 498-0390 where consumers can learn more about software upgrades.
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