For the first time in hundreds of lawsuits around the nation, Toyota has been found liable for an unintended acceleration case that injured a driver and killed her passenger. As a result, Toyota is obligated to fork out a $3 million settlement plus punitive damages, at least for now.
The verdict came down yesterday in an Oklahoma courtroom where a jury found that defective technology caused Jean Bookout, 76 years old in September 2007, to lose control of her 2005 Toyota Camry’s accelerator, killing her 70-year-old passenger. Toyota says the car’s electronics were not at fault; the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Graham Esdale, called Toyota “reckless.” It should be noted, however, that Bookout took a wrong turn and was in an unfamiliar area when her car accident occurred.
This case marks a stark contrast to other Toyota unintended acceleration lawsuits in which Toyota has won–three in total. It could possibly open the floodgates to further losses by Toyota, which has already settled a $1.6 billion class-action lawsuit as a result of accelerator pedal and floor mat recalls in 2009 that led to this scare and subsequently lowered resale values. The unintended acceleration lawsuits, including this latest one in Oklahoma, are mostly focused around electronics issues that allegedly come from a sticky throttle pedal and electronic glitches within Toyota’s computers. It should be noted, however, that NASA experimented with Toyota’s electronics and found them robust enough to withstand any sort of outside electronic interference; basically, the best scientists in the world couldn’t find diddly.
It should be noted that Toyota has not yet had the opportunity to file an appeal, which could overturn the ruling. Given the magnitude of this sudden unintended acceleration lawsuit and its possible consequences in other suits, we imagine Toyota will do just that. Hey, appealing worked for Honda; it could work for Toyota, too.
Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)