— The crash of a 2011 Kia Soul that struck an alligator is the focus of a wrongful death lawsuit against Kia and the South Carolina Department of Transportation.
The May 7, 2018, crash occurred when 24-year-old Amber Stanley was driving the Kia Soul as she and her two children were traveling on I-95 near Orangeburg, South Carolina at about 1:00 a.m.
The Kia Soul hit an alligator that was crossing the road, sending the subcompact SUV off the road and into the center median where the Soul hit a tree and caught fire. Amber Stanley, her 4-year-old son Jack and 2-year-old daughter Autumn were pronounced dead at the scene.
According to the lawsuit, all three occupants died in the fire that resulted from the Kia Soul hitting the tree.
Based on lawsuit documents filed by Joshua Stanley, the husband and father of the victims, the 2011 Kia Soul was defective in multiple areas of the vehicle, including the door latch, fuel delivery system and tank.
The Soul was also allegedly not adequately designed to prevent post-crash fires, and the vehicle floor and frame didn't have enough strength to "resist crumpling in the event of this foreseeable frontal collision."
The driver-side seat, seat belt, pretensioners and airbag systems were allegedly not tested adequately by Kia, something the automaker should have told customers.
The lawsuit also alleges the 2011 Soul wasn't adequately tested "to determine the effects of a frontal impact on this type of vehicle."
However, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the 2011 Kia Soul earned a 4-star safety rating in the frontal crash test and a 5-star rating in the side-impact test.
The lawsuit also alleges the South Carolina Department of Transportation is responsible for the crash and deaths because the government should have built fencing to prevent wildlife from reaching the road.
In addition, the plaintiff claims the state of South Carolina should have removed the trees in the median so the Kia Soul wouldn't have hit a tree.
Then there is how the Department of Transportation should have monitored the roadway. The lawsuit says the highway department should have inspected the roadway for alligators and other wildlife during mating season.
Kia responded to the lawsuit by saying the 2011 Kia Soul "and its components were scientifically and technically state of the art when released to the public, and thus were not defective in design or manufacture."
The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) also responded to the lawsuit:
“The defendant, SCDOT, alleges that if the plaintiff sustained any injuries or damages as set forth in the complaint, the same were due to and proximately caused by the sole, willful, wanton, reckless, careless, and negligent acts and conduct of a third party or parties over which this defendant has no control resulting in injuries and damages for which the defendant SCDOT has no liability.”
The 2011 Kia Soul lawsuit was filed in the South Carolina Court of Common Pleas in the County of Orangeburg - Joshua Stanley v. Kia Motors Corp, et al.