A jury on Feb. 3 ordered Toyota Motor Corp to pay nearly $11 million after finding that an accelerator defect in a 1996 Camry was at fault for a 2006 fatal car crash in Minnesota. Following a three-week trial, jurors in Minnesota federal court found Toyota 60 percent liable for the crash and Koua Fong Lee, the Camry’s driver, was found 40 percent responsible.
The plaintiffs said that the crash was caused by a defect in the Camry’s accelerator that caused it to become stuck, and the brakes failed to work. Toyota denied that the car was at fault, and said the driver was at fault. The car in the crash was not covered by Toyota’s recall of more than 10 million vehicles between 2009 and 2010 over sudden, unexpected acceleration issues.
The Minnesota trial involved a lawsuit filed on behalf of passengers injured or killed in a 2006 crash in St. Paul, Minnesota. The driver, Mr. Lee, who later joined the suit, said he was driving his 1996 Toyota Camry when it inexplicably began to accelerate as he approached other vehicles stopped at an intersection. The Camry slammed into an Oldsmobile Ciera, killing the driver, Javis Trice-Adams Sr., as well as his 9-year old son. A 6-year old girl who was also in the car was paralyzed and later died. Two other passengers were seriously injured.
Lee, the driver of the Camry, was charged in connection with the crash and served nearly three years in prison for vehicular homicide. In 2010, when reports of unintended acceleration in other Toyota vehicles surfaced, Lee won a motion to set aside his conviction, and he was released from prison. I didn’t have time to give a full account of this verdict since this issue was sent to the printer on Feb. 4.
For more information about this case, see related news on our Righting Injustice blog.
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