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Toyota recall scandal results in another court loss for automaker

With the major auto recall scandals of the past year, it is easy to forget about earlier events that dominated the news just a few years ago. Perhaps the most notable was the Toyota recall related to sticking pedals and issues of "sudden, unintended acceleration." The first cases to make headlines involved devastating car accidents here in California.

While much of the scandal played out publicly between 2009 and 2011, Toyota continues to face legal repercussions. Earlier this month, in fact, a judge increased a jury award stemming from a February trial. The award against Toyota was increased from $10 million to about $14 million in damages.

The accident that sparked the lawsuit occurred way back in 2006 and involved an allegedly defective Toyota Camry made in 1996. In that accident, a Minnesota man was driving with his family (including his pregnant wife) when his brakes allegedly malfunctioned and he slammed his car into a vehicle stopped at a red light.

Three people were killed in the crash and two more were badly injured. The Camry driver was charged with and convicted of careless driving and vehicular homicide. He spent years in prison before news of the Toyota recall allowed him to challenge his convictions.

In a separate trial earlier this year, the jury found Toyota liable and awarded plaintiffs $10 million. The Camry driver was also deemed responsible for the crash but only 40 percent responsible. He was also awarded damages in the jury ruling. Earlier this month, the judge increased the total award to $14 million in recognition of what many of the plaintiffs had suffered.

Victims who have been seriously injured or lost loved ones in a car accident often find themselves struggling with even the most basic aspects of recovery. If the legal aftermath of the crash involves criminal prosecution and allegations of product liability, things become even more complicated. Hopefully, decisions made by the jury and judge will help all victims gain a sense of closure and healing.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Toyota Must Pay $14M Liability for 2006 Crash," Adam Klasfeld, June 16, 2015

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