The fire gutted interior of the 2013 Hyundai Sonata.
2013 Hyundai Sonata fire. Fire expert says cause of the fire is undetermined.
by Tom Thorne
A fire forensic report concerning the 2013 Hyundai Sonata fire done by professional engineer, Brian D. James states “The origin of the fire is located within the rear seating area of the passenger compartment. All burn patterns are consistent with this as an area fire origin” this report was submitted to the driver’s insurance company on 16 June 2014 almost six months after the incident.
Mr James preliminarily examined the car on 22 January 2014 two days after the date of loss which was 20 January 2014. A further examination was conducted on 15 April 2014. This time the car was “destructively examined and the various circuits and components were examined within the vehicle and associated to the area fire origin.”
The 15 April examination was conducted “with other parties” present. Who these other parties were is not recorded in the report. The car was fitted with seat heaters and the report states “did not show any remnants of seat heaters or wiring components”. Because these components could not be located Mr. James concludes that there are “no indications of any failures”.
However there is evidence that there was a seat heater under the back seat because Mr. James reports “that the seat heater fuse was open, however, the could be the result of the fire spread and or the fire spread to the forward seat heaters”. The ambiguity of these statements enables Mr. James to say “that the cause of the fire is undetermined”.
There was some concern that the “aftermarket anti corrosion module” may have been the cause. That is ruled out by this report since there was “no evidence of malfunction”. The report rules out any gas line or gas origins for the fire since it is clear that the fire started in the passenger compartment back seat. The drivers destroyed lap top computer is also ruled out as a cause of the fire.
If the cause of the fire is undetermined the fire patterns do indicate that it started in the passenger back seat. The real problem now is whether or not Hyundai is negligent in their engineering, design of components or in their manufacturing. This report is ambiguous enough to provide a defence against any alleged Hyundai negligence.
This case is perhaps complicated by the fact that the car was a dealer demonstrator before the sale to the driver. Assessing any liabilities to Hyundai now could involve a second party namely Hyundai’s local Belleville, Ontario dealership.
The purchasers and the specific driver of this Hyundai Sonata are really between a rock and a hard place. If an expert witness like Mr. James says the cause of the fire is unknown but he does say it started in the back seat. Without any direct connection to a failed or malfunctioning component in this Hyundai Sonata it could be difficult to make a serious case.
It may be sufficient to ignore this report as inconclusive and to really state the obvious in any legal claim. Hyundai is accountable for all the component parts making up the entire car. The fact that there was a fire and its burn patterns clearly shows it started in the components of the car, then a suit could go forward indicating negligence in the manufacturing of such a car. It is obvious even in the ambiguity of this report that a manufactured part of the car caused of the fire.
No external component or after market anti corrosion device can be blamed. The Lithium battery of the lap top lying on the backseat didn’t overheat and therefore set the car on fire. Hyundai’s components somewhere in this car started the fire.
It is not normal that a car barely a year old should close down all its systems and then ignite in the backseat. Hyundai Canada or at least their local dealer should have taken the car to a heated garage early in this forensic process, and read out its computer systems. Perhaps that action could provide clues about why a fire starts spontaneously.
Hyundai and the insurance company left the car in a wrecking yard. It was subject to to the wiles of a long and severe Canadian winter from 22 January to 15 April 2014. The engine compartment was completely intact so computer connection was possible. Only the interior of the car was gutted by fire.
The question is when will Hyundai Canada or the head office in Korea step up to the plate and acknowledge that this kind of spontaneous fire needs attention both for after sale customers and their car buying public in general. Their customer relations department simply gave excuses for their lack of action for almost six months as their email correspondence with the driver attests.
© Copyright 2014, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved