Toyota knew stuck pedals posed danger, lawyer told jurors

Article by Anita Panait, on August 10, 2013

A lawyer told jurors in the first sudden-acceleration case trial involving Toyota Motor Corp. that the carmaker had knowledge of the danger of stuck pedals and failed to install a brake-override system in a woman's 2006 Camry, leading to her death.  Garo Mardirossian, the lawyer for the widow and son of the woman, Noriko Uno, said in his opening statement in state court in Los Angeles that had the carmaker installed a brake-override system in her Camry, the car would have come to a stop.

The lawyer said that the 66-year old Uno died in an accident in August 2009 after her Camry suddenly accelerated out of control and crashed into a tree after it was hit by a car that ran a stop sign. Mardirossian told jurors that Toyota had already installed a brake-override system in models sold in Europe, failed to install the feature in cars sold in the United States.

He noted that Toyota would have incurred no cost in the installation of the brake-override system since it only required only a modification to the vehicle’s software.A brake-override system could prevent sudden acceleration if the brake and accelerator pedals are pressed at the same time. The Uno lawsuit is the first of around 85 personal-injury and wrongful-death cases consolidated in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Uno's family is seeking $20 million in damages against Toyota. Toyota lawyer Vince Galvin, on the other hand, said in his opening statement that the case is “not a stuck-pedal case,” but “an alleged stuck foot case.” According to Galvin, the claim that Uno’s right foot was stuck between the gas and the brake pedals – which caused her to accelerate while trying to brake with her left foot -- is not possible.

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 last month 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. [source: automotive news - sub. required]

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