Court says Toyota’s Jim Lentz may be called to testify in person at trial

Article by Anita Panait, on August 22, 2013

There is no stopping a court in California from having Jim Lentz, chief executive of Toyota Motor Corp’s North America Region, testify in person in the first jury trial stemming from a lawsuit claiming that the carmaker is responsible for unintended acceleration in a woman's 2006 Camry that lead to her death.

California Superior Court Judge Lee Smalley Edmon in Los Angeles ruled that Lentz may be called to testify in person, despite objective from Toyota’s lawyers, who argued that the executive’s video depositions should suffice. Edmon said that the parties “have identified certain testimony he gave in depositions and everyone agrees is relevant and can be used in this case."

According to the judge, video recording was for pretrial evidence-sharing "purposes only," noting that there is a difference between “playing a videotaped deposition and testimony in person.'' The woman in subject, Noriko Uno, died in an accident in August 2009 after her 2006 Camry suddenly accelerated after it was hit by another car, causing her to crash into a tree.

Following claims of unintended acceleration, Toyota was forced to recall over 10 million vehicles around in 2009 and 2010, saying it would fix sticky pedals that were getting stuck under floor mats. A US court in July gave final approval to a $1.63-billion settlement agreement between Toyota and US consumer-plaintiffs who claimed that the recall resulted to a decrease in their vehicles’ value.

Ono's 2006 Camry wasn't part of the 2009 and 2010 Toyota recalls, when the carmaker also installed brake override system software and started making it standard. Ono’s family is claiming that the crash could have been prevented only if a brake override system was installed in the 2006 Camry. A brake-override system could prevent sudden acceleration if the brake and accelerator pedals are pressed at the same time. Toyota, on the other hand, is claiming that the crashed was due to driver error. [source: Bloomberg]

Topics: toyota

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