Jurors may be asked for greater caution in Toyota’s sudden-unintended acceleration lawsuits

Article by Christian Andrei, on June 1, 2012

Jurors may be asked by the federal judge, who is handling the consolidated sudden-unintended acceleration lawsuits against Toyota Motor Corp., to practice caution in viewing the testimony of several of the carmaker's trial witnesses. In a tentative ruling last Tuesday, U.S. District Judge James Selna in Santa Ana, Calif., said that he will inform jurors of the first wrongful death and personal injury case set for trial.

He said that the Toyota personnel’s testimony about inspecting a 2008 Camry that crashed without plaintiffs' lawyers present should be treated with more caution. Sanctions were asked by lawyers for a Utah family, who filed a suit over a fatal accident in November.

They also asked for a default judgment against Toyota. The ruling stated that according to the owner of this facility where Toyota technicians examined the car after the crash, the technicians took out a piece of plastic wedged in the throttle body.

The judge said that presently, the court can’t say yet if there truly is a causal relationship between the plastic piece placed in the throttle body and the accident, or whether the piece stuck in the opening as a result, not a cause, of the crash.

The judge said with these circumstances, the court thinks that this evidentiary sanction is modest but is appropriate. The arguments on the request for sanctions will be given during a hearing set today. Spokeswoman for Toyota Motor Sales USA in California Celeste Migliore said that it won’t be commenting on the tentative ruling.

In addition, Selna said that he might inform the jury about the downloading of the event data recorder of this car after crash without getting the family’s consent. The tentative ruling further stated that there’s no need to have this evidence excluded since there’s no indication that the data was corrupted or changed.

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