Saturday, October 26, 2013

Toyota was aware of the issue but hid it from the public.

Each of these cases represents people who were injured, lives destroyed, people killed because of TOYOTA.

Oklahoma Jury Finds Toyota Liable For Sudden Acceleration Fault; Awards $3M In Damages

on October 25 2013

An accident picture provided by the lawyers representing the family of Guadalupe Alberto, of the wreckage of a 2005 Toyota Camry following an April 19, 2008 crash in Flint, Mich., which killed Guadalupe Alberto. The crash was the focus of one of many lawsuits against Toyota over the safety of its vehicles. Reuters/Alberto family/Handout

In a landmark decision of sorts, an Oklahoma City jury found that electronic defects in a Toyota Camry led to its sudden acceleration and eventual crash in 2007, and awarded $1.5 million in damages each to the injured driver and the family of the deceased passenger.

The verdict was handed down late on Thursday and marks the first time that a jury was convinced by arguments that malfunctioning electronics caused a Toyota vehicle to speed up without the driver’s involvement, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Jean Bookout, 82, was driving the 2005 Camry when it sped through an intersection and crashed into an embankment, injuring her and killing Barbara Schwarz, 70, in September 2007 in Eufaula, Okla., according to reports.

The jury awarded $1.5 million in monetary damages each to Bookout and Schwarz’s family. It also decided that the automaker acted with “reckless disregard” for the rights of others, setting the stage for the next phase of the trial -- to determine punitive damages -- scheduled to begin Friday, according to the Associated Press.

A spokesman for Toyota (NYSE:TM) confirmed the verdict but declined to comment during an ongoing case, according to the LATimes, and attorneys for the plaintiffs also declined comment.

In court, lawyers for Bookout and Schwarz’s family had argued that the vehicle accelerated unexpectedly because of a defect in the car’s electronic throttle-control system, AP reported, adding that Bookout’s lawyer, Cole Portis, said that Toyota was aware of the issue but hid it from the public.


“We believe Toyota’s conduct from the time the electronic throttle-control system was developed has been shameful,” Portis told jurors. “It’s a big deal, because if it doesn’t work right, people get killed.”

Toyota, which has successfully defended itself in court in three prior trials, has denied the allegations, the LATimes reported.

However, the automaker also agreed, in 2012, to a settlement worth more than $1 billion to resolve hundreds of lawsuits following the company’s recall of millions of vehicles because of sudden acceleration problems, AP reported, adding that the settlement did not include those suing over wrongful death and injury.

Jury hits Toyota with $3-million verdict in sudden acceleration death case

Toyota lost a $3-million judgment in an Oklahoma sudden acceleration lawsuit. (Uli Deck / European Pressphoto Agency)

October 24, 2013, 5:08 p.m.
An Oklahoma City jury has found that electronic defects in a Toyota Motor Corp. vehicle caused it to accelerate out of control and crash into a wall, killing a passenger and seriously injuring the driver.

The verdict, handed down late Thursday, requires Toyota to pay a total of $3 million in compensatory damages to Jean Bookout and the family of the deceased passenger, Barbara Schwarz. They were the sole occupants of a 2005 Camry that crashed in Eufaula, Okla., in September 2007.

The jury will award punitive damages in the case as well, based on its finding that Toyota's actions were in "reckless disregard" of others. Deliberations on the second set of damages will begin on Friday.

A Toyota spokesman confirmed the verdict but said the company could not comment while the case is ongoing. Attorneys for the plaintiffs also declined to comment.

The decision marks the first time a jury was convinced by arguments that faulty electronics -- in this case those involving the Camry's electronic throttle system -- could cause a Toyota vehicle to accelerate uncommanded.

The automaker has vigorously denied such allegations and has successfully defended itself in court in three prior trials.

Earlier this month, it was cleared of responsibility in a Los Angeles court case involving an Uplands, Calif., woman who died when her Camry accelerated to more than 100 miles per hour before crashing.

But plaintiff attorneys in the Oklahoma case claimed that Toyota had long been aware of problems in the electronic throttle system in Camrys and did not move to correct them. As a result, they argued, Bookout, then 76 years old, could not prevent her sedan from accelerating through an intersection and crashing into an embankment.

The Times first reported on the Bookout accident in 2009 as part of its coverage of the Toyota sudden acceleration issue.

“This certainly changes the momentum,” said Carl Tobias, a product liability expert and law professor at the University of Richmond.

The ruling “has to be a real concern for Toyota,” Tobias said. “They have maintained all along that there wasn’t a problem.”

The ruling also is noteworthy because it comes from a jury in Oklahoma, a state not known as particularly friendly to plaintiffs in such lawsuits, he said.

Tobias said it will take about a dozen rulings before a trend emerges and Toyota is ready to enter into serious settlement negotiations with other plaintiffs filing similar lawsuits.

Nonetheless, with the punitive damages ruling still to come down in the Oklahoma case, “this isn’t good news for Toyota,” he said.

Toyota still faces hundreds of other sudden acceleration lawsuits, many of which will probably make similar arguments. The next trial, involving a Georgia woman who accelerated into a schoolyard, is set to begin in federal court in Santa Ana next month.

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