Girardi | Keese

Toyota finally found liable in sudden acceleration case

It appears that Toyota is finally being held accountable for problems with its vehicles concerning unintended and sudden acceleration. Toyota has just decided to settle out an acceleration case before a jury had a chance to decide upon punitive damages. The jury had at that point returned a $3 million verdict against Toyota for compensatory damages.

This is the first time a jury has held Toyota accountable in an unintended acceleration case. In July, a federal court in California approved a $1.6 billion settlement for victims in crashes concerning a class action lawsuit against Toyota.  Despite this settlement, a jury in California since did rule in favor of Toyota regarding one case involving a fatal crash.

Another difference between the case Toyota was forced to settle and others tried in front of a jury related to allegations regarding the cause of the sudden acceleration. While attorneys in the other cases blamed the acceleration on floor mats causing accelerator pedals to stick, the theory in this particular case was that the electronic throttle system in the 2005 Camry was defective. (It was also noted that a throttle system used by Toyota was controlled electronically rather than mechanically.)

That Toyota was held liable will likely provide hope for other victims of crashes involving sudden acceleration. Products liability and auto defect cases like this one can force companies to admit that mistakes were made. Perhaps even more importantly, such a case will motivate manufacturers to place more emphasis on safety and not market products that are potentially defective.

As it took many, many cases to reach this point, we need to understand that the prosecuting of such cases against a major manufacturer are seldom simple affairs. Able attorneys are generally needed to hold these companies accountable.

Source: The New York Times, "Toyota Agrees to Settlement in Fatal Acceleration Crash," Jaclyn Trop, Oct. 25, 2013

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