California readers no doubt remember the Toyota “sudden unintended acceleration” scandal that dominated the news a few years ago. While the story hasn’t received much media attention lately, that may soon be changing.
Late last month, jury selection began on the first Toyota sudden acceleration lawsuit to go to trial. The lawsuit is on behalf of a California woman who was killed in an auto accident in August 2009 when her Camry crashed at high speeds on a city street.
The accident occurred in the Los Angeles suburb of Upland, California. The 66-year-old woman’s family described her as an overly cautious driver who was afraid of driving fast. On the day of the crash, she was out running errands that included grocery shopping.
According to the lawsuit, the woman was driving on a street with a 30-mph speed limit when her Camry suddenly began climbing to speeds of up to 100 mph. Witnesses on the street that day saw the woman’s brake lights flashing on and off and also heard the roar of the engine. She was able to swerve to avoid hitting other vehicles, but her car eventually went up onto the median and struck both a telephone pole and a tree.
Toyota continues to deny that its vehicles suffered from a mechanical defect that caused unintended acceleration. Instead, the automaker attributes accidents to things like driver error, sticky accelerators and floor mats that caused the gas pedal to become trapped.
It is unclear if the plaintiffs’ attorneys will try to prove that there was indeed a mechanical defect. However, they will likely focus their arguments on the fact that Toyota did not include a brake override system in its American cars that was included in those sold in Europe.
An attorney representing the woman’s husband and son commented that “Toyota decided to make safety an option instead of a standard on their vehicles. They decided to save a few bucks, and by doing so, it cost lives."
As the first sudden acceleration lawsuit to go to trial, the outcome of this case could prove highly influential to the rulings in future cases. Hopefully, justice will prevail for all victims who suffered injury or death as a result of Toyota’s negligence.
Source: USA Today, “First Toyota sudden acceleration case to begin,” Greg Risling, July 21, 2013