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KC woman sues automaker after nearly dying by gunfire while attempting to stop thieves from taking her car

‘I feel like I’m a walking billboard for a warning for Hyundai’
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Posted at 5:47 PM, Sep 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-19 19:33:23-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Gabrielle Lawton was just trying to feed her five-month-old son when she was shot in the middle of the night on April 28.

“I feel like I’m a walking billboard for a warning for Hyundai,” Gabrielle said.

She was in her kitchen when she heard a noise outside and saw two men attempting to steal her car. When she yelled for them to stop, gunfire erupted.

“I couldn’t imagine him (son) growing up without her,” said Kendrick Lawton, Gabrielle’s husband.

Volunteers repaired the home, but Gabrielle carries a bullet in her lung and a scar on her chest.

She said it’s still “a little traumatizing” to stand by the window where she was shot.

But rather than dwelling on the incident, Gabrielle is hopeful her story can spur change.

“If I see that people have a Hyundai, I’m like, ‘Oh, gosh. Have you heard about what’s going on with their cars?’” Gabrielle said.

A TikTok challenge over the summer seemingly encouraged teens to steal Hyundais, specifically any vehicle manufactured between 2011-2021.

Despite the company's attempt to remedy the issue, issuing software upgrades and providing free steering wheel locks for older cars, Gabrielle feels the automaker should be held responsible for the struggles she, as well as other Hyundai owners, endured.

The lawsuit alleges the security devices the vehicles were missing, which made them susceptible to theft, cost less than $200 per car.

The mechanism’s absence also reportedly violates the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard.

Had the devices been installed, thefts and similar crimes could have “easily” been prevented, the suit alleges.

“Instead of accepting responsibility for its defective and harmful cars through a recall or some other widespread repair program, Hyundai instead has left it to car owners to address the problem by themselves all while thefts of its cars continue unabated,” per the lawsuit.

A Hyundai representative shared the company is “committed to ensuring the quality and integrity of our products,” including completing the anti-theft software updates, but Gabrielle’s lawyer, Jim Thompson, of Thompson Law Offices, believes most fixes were merely “band-aids.”

“We are probably never going to learn who shot Gabby, but we do know who set those chains of events into motion — who started, who created the danger,” he said. “And by holding them accountable, that gives Gabby justice.”

The suit seeks compensation for general damages, specific damages (hospital expenses, etc.), punitive damages, pre-judgment interest, suit costs and “further relief the court may deem proper.”

Several police departments in the Kansas City area handed out free steering wheel locks through the spring and summer to help deter crime after a rise due to the social media challenge.

For jurisdictions that utilize the Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers Tips Hotline, anonymous tips can be made by calling 816-474-TIPS (8477), submitting the tip online or through the free mobile app at Tips leading to an arrest made through the Tips Hotline may be eligible for up to a $25,000 reward.

Annual homicide details and data for the Kansas City area are available through the KSHB 41 News Homicide Tracker, which was launched in 2015. Read the KSHB 41 News Mug Shot Policy.