Who Owns the Evidence?

Recently, we conducted the examination of a 2013 Kia Soul, the purpose of which was to determine the cause of a fire. The vehicle had developed a problem with the antilock braking system and was taken to a local shop for repair. While on the shop’s lot and after an overnight, the vehicle was destroyed by fire the following day. During the examination of the vehicle, it was later confirmed that the fire had occurred on the repair shop’s property. It was also confirmed that the vehicle was owned by a third party. As a result, since the vehicle was evidence in the investigation, and since the vehicle was owned by the third party, the right of evidence ownership belonged to the third party. The implication being that any disassembly, or more importantly, any destruction of the evidence could be regarded as an act of “spoliation”. Spoliation of evidence refers to evidence that has been violated to the extent that one party to a lawsuit cannot use the evidence to prove its case. The party that causes the spoliation can usually be held liable by means of litigation. In these types of cases where the owner of the evidence is not the investigating expert’s client, care must be taken not to handle, remove, or otherwise examine something that can be altered by handling, broken, or replaced in its original position or state. It is advisable to photograph and document the condition of evidence and then conduct a joint examination with all interested parties at a later time.

Hyundai and Kia Latest Engine Fire Updates

Hyundai and Kia are still having problems with engine fires.  The manufacturers are now telling owners to park their vehicles outside of their garages and carports because their vehicles can suddenly ignite even if the vehicles have not been driven.  The warning applies to approximately 485,000 vehicles in the U.S.  The problem is with the antilock braking system module which can leak fluid and cause an internal short circuit that leads to a fire.  This recall now includes 2014 – 2016 Kia Sportage, 2016 – 2019 K900 Sedans, 2016 – 2018 Santa Fe SUVs, 2017 – 2018 Santa Fe Sports, 2019 Santa Fe XL, and 2014 – 2015 Tucson SUVs.  Dealers are supposed to replace a fuse and if necessary the anti-lock brake control module.  Kia is expected to begin notifying owners beginning on March 31st and Hyundai owners will be notified beginning on April 5th.  We have previously reported on this issue and the articles are still available for review.  The articles are in the following posting sates: Feb 2020, Sept 2020, Jan 2021, May 2021, and Dec 2021.  The articles can be accessed by clicking on the month and year located on the right side margin and scrolling through the page after it loads.  For additional information, about the recalls, owners can contact Hyundai or Kia by phone or email as listed in the articles.   

Ford Recalls Vehicles for Brakes and Driveshaft

The Ford Motor Company has recalled 2021-2022 Bronco Sport and Escape vehicles as a result of the faulty manufacture of the rear brake linings.  The linings do not meet the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 135 and as a result, vehicles require longer stopping distances.  The remedy for this particular recall is currently under development and Ford was expected to begin notifying owners on January 10, 2022.  The number of vehicles involved in this recall is approximately 114,996.  Ford’s identification number for this recall is 21C31.  For additional information, owners can contact Ford by calling 1-866-436-7332 and referring to Ford’ recall number. 

Ford has also announced the recall of 184,698 F 150 pickup trucks, year models 2021-2022.  The problem with these trucks is that heat and noise insulating shields can loosen and make contact with the driveshaft.  Contact with the driveshaft can cause damage to the driveshaft that could also lead to a fracture type failure.  Owners should take their vehicles to a Ford dealer for a free inspection.  If repair is necessary, then the dealer will repair the vehicle free of charge.  Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed on January 31, 2022.  For additional information, owners can contact Ford by calling 1-866-436-7332 and referencing recall number 21S56.     

More About Hyundai and Kia Engine Fires

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced that it is continuing its investigation of engine fires in Hyundai and Kia vehicles.  NHTSA has reportedly opened a new engineering analysis that covers in excess of 3 million vehicles.  It should be noted that some of the vehicles have already been recalled.  The vehicles in question are 2011 through 2016 Hyundai Elantra, Santa Fe and Sonata; and, Kia Optima, Rio, Sorento, and Soul.  These are the same engine problems that were reported in September of 2020 and again in January and May of 2021 on our blog.  All of the vehicles involved in the investigation are equipped with one of the following engines: Theta II GDI, Theta II MPI, Theta II MPI Hybrid, NU GDI, and Gamma GDI. For additional information, owners can visit NHTSA’s website at www.nhtsa.gov or contact their Hyundai/Kia dealer.       

Happy Holidays Everyone!

We have had a very successful year despite battling the pandemic, bad news around the country and the world, and people’s frustration with everything in general. We are also very thankful for the blessings that have been bestowed upon us. Our hope is for 2022 to be an even better year than 2021.

We would like to wish everyone a HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON!

Applications of Investigative Mechanical Engineering

Although we have been practicing forensic engineering for over 30 years, it has come to our attention that many adjusters in the commercial and personal property lines markets may not know the extent of our services.  So, a list of services has been attached below.  Most of the applications are self explanatory.  However, every once in a while, someone will ask if the loss they are handling is within the scope of our expertise.  While it would be impossible for an adjuster to recognize every scenario, we welcome questions about our services as they pertain to the loss.  Recently, we were asked if a water loss involving a skid steer was something we could evaluate.  The loss involved determining whether engine damage was part of the loss and should have been covered.  This application was definitely within our experience and service capability.  In general, if the loss involves something mechanical or electro-mechanical, we can usually accept the assignment.  Please feel free to make contact by calling the office or emailing directly,  Our contact information can be found on the “About” page of our website located at www.rjhill.com.

Supco Surge Protector Warning

A warning has been discovered that was issued by Sealed Unit Parts Company (Supco) that alerts consumers to a potentially defective lightning surge protector.  The warning identifies two surge protectors, SCM 60 and SCM 150 that are intended for use with HVAC equipment.  The surge protectors can fail and cause a fire which can spread to a home.  The units are wired into the HVAC unit’s disconnect box and is supposed to shunt lightning away from the HVAC unit through its ground connection.  The disconnect box is that box located adjacent to the unit that controls power going to the unit. Supco recommends that the units be replaced or removed.  Supco has also identified the manufacturer of the surge protectors as Sycom Surge Inc. and could be out of business.  The company website lists a toll free telephone number that appears to be assigned to another party.  However, it is unknown if the address is still current.  Furthermore, Sycom managed to obtain Underwriter Laboratories (UL) seal of approval.  However, UL, has also issued a warning saying the surge protectors do meet UL safety standards.  It should be noted that the surge protectors have NOT been recalled.  The warnings are contained in the attachments shown below along with photos of the surge protectors. 

Kia Recalls Sportage Vehicles

Kia Motors America has announced the recall of its 2017 through 2021 Sportage vehicles not equipped with smart cruise control.  Kia has identified a defect in the hydraulic electronic control unit (HECU) that can short circuit and result in an engine compartment fire.  This is the same item that has been tentatively indentified in previous posts involving vehicle fires.  See archived posts made on May 5, 2021, “Second Hyundai Vehicle Fire Update”; January 20, 2021, “Ford F350 Engine  Fire”; January 7, 2021, “Hyundai Recall Update”; and September 10, 2020, “Hyundai and Kia Vehicles Recalled for Fire Hazard.  Although not specifically confirmed as being the same component, the HECU is suspected of leaking brake fluid internally within the unit that causes the short circuit and ultimately results in the engine fires.  For this reason, the vehicle manufacturers want owners to park their vehicles outside and away from any combustible structures.  According to Kia, illumination of various warning lights such as tire pressure, antilock brake, and check engine can also occur.  In addition, a burning odor or smoke coming from the engine compartment can occur.  If a burning odor is detected or smoke is observed, stop and exit the vehicle as soon as possible.  Get all passengers out and away from the vehicle.  For this particular recall, owners can refer to NHTSA campaign number 21V137 when contacting their Kia dealers for a repair.  The repair involves the replacement of certain fuses in order to prevent the overcurrent condition leading to engine fires.  For additional information, owners can contact Kia by calling 1-800-333-4542 or visiting Kia’s website at www.kia.com.

Ford Recalls Explorer Vehicles

The Ford Motor Company has announced a recall for 2016-2019 Explorer vehicles.  620,483 vehicles are being recalled for a faulty roof rail cover that can become detached.  If the rail cover separates from the vehicle while the vehicle is in motion, it can become a flying hazard for other drivers and their passengers.  Affected vehicles include base models, XLT, police interceptor, and Explorer Sport.  The rail covers are painted silver, black or absolute black.  Dealers will secure the rail covers with plastic push pins.  Owner notification is expected to begin during the week of June 28.  Ford’s reference number for this campaign is 21S22.  For additional information, owners can contact Ford by calling 1-800-392-3673. Owners can also visit Ford’s website at www.ford.com.      

Hyundai Recalls Elantra, Kona and Veloster Vehicles

Hyundai Motor Company has announced the recall of 125,840 2019 througb 2020 Elantra and 2019 through 2021 Kona and Veloster vehicles.  All of these vehicles are equipped with 2 liter engines.  The reason for the recall was that the piston oil rings were not properly heat treated.  As a result, the rings can chip and scar the engine cylinders.  The result can be oil leakage, engine fires and total engine failure.  Owners are instructed to take their vehicles to their dealers for inspection of the engine.  Dealers will replace the engine at no cost to the owners and also install piston noise sensing software.  Owner notification is expected to begin on June 25, 2021.  For additional information, owners can contact Hyundai by calling 1-800-633-5151 or visiting www.hyundaiusa.com.  Owners will need to have their vehicle identification number when contacting Hyundai.

%d bloggers like this: