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Toyota Faces First of Many Wrongful Death Claims

A trial has begun in California Superior Court that promises to test laws pertaining to wrongful death because of a product defect. The family of Noriko Uno is suing Toyota over a 2009 fatal accident in Upland, CA after Uno’s Camry suddenly accelerated to over 100 miles per hour, eventually striking a telephone pole. The car would not stop even though Uno was pressing on the brake pedal. The trial is being closely watched as the first among many that will likely test the auto maker’s denial of responsibility for sudden acceleration accidents.

Uno’s case is just one among a wave of lawsuits Toyota is facing over accidents resulting from stuck gas pedals. Many of the accidents resulted in deaths.

  • More than eight million cars were recalled in 2009 and 2010, either because their pedals might become trapped in floor mats or because there was the potential for gas pedals to stick.
  • Toyota has already settled for roughly $1 billion in return for losses related to the recall but wrongful death cases remain for accidents like Uno’s, where Toyota does not admit fault.

This is the first of the Toyota lawsuits to reach court but certainly not the last. At stake in the case is whether:

  • Toyota knew of a problem and failed to address it
  • The cars were faulty to a degree that driver error could not be the cause of the accident
  • Toyota should have installed a brake-override system in its cars, which prompts the brakes to override the gas pedal in any driving situation, theoretically preventing unintended acceleration accidents.

If the jury finds that the cars should have had such a system or that Toyota did not do as much as it could have to prevent unintended accelerations, the case could have major implications for future wrongful death cases against Toyota and other car manufacturers.

Categories: Wrogful Death
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