Jury selection starts in unintended acceleration case vs Toyota

Article by Anita Panait, on July 23, 2013

Jury selection has started in a trial in Los Angeles, California stemming from a lawsuit claiming that Toyota Motor Corp. is responsible for unintended acceleration in a woman's 2006 Camry that lead to her death. The bellwether lawsuit could set a precedent for a series of cases over alleged sudden acceleration by Toyota vehicles.

The woman, Noriko Uno, died in an accident in August 2009 after her Camry suddenly accelerated to 100 mph, causing her to swerve into the center and then crash into a telephone pole and a tree. Uno’s family claims the crash was not a result of driver error, and that it could have been prevented by better safety equipment.

The Uno trial is expected to question why Toyota vehicles don’t have a brake-override system that would prevent acceleration if the brake and accelerator pedals are pressed at simultaneously, according to an Associated Press report. Toyota has agreed to install such brake-override systems as part of a wider legal settlement in federal court.

Due to allegations 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 recently gave final approval to a $1.63-billion settlement agreement between Toyota and US consumer-plaintiffs who claimed that the recall resulted to depreciation of their vehicles’ value.

According to the plaintiff lawyers' April 23, 2013, request for final approval, the settlement entails $757 million in cash payments -- including $227 million in attorneys' fees and costs -- and $875 million in non-monetary benefits, including free installation of brake-override systems for eligible vehicles. In January 2013, Toyota settled a lawsuit filed by the families of Paul Van Alfen and Charlene Lloyd, who were riding in a 2008 Camry that hit a rock wall after failing to stop. According to AP, the Uno trial is expected to last two months. [source: automotive news - sub. required]

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