A surprise ruling in a California wrongful death suit has left the family of a car accident victim with a $10 million financial award, but has absolved Toyota from any liability in her death. The woman was killed in 2006 when her Toyota Camry malfunctioned, losing control and causing the fatal crash. Instead of Toyota paying into the award, the woman who set off the accident in the first place will be held fully responsible.
This is the first conclusive verdict in a series of similar cases; Toyota is still under fire because of potential flaws in its accelerator design. Scores of other wrongful death suits allege that the automaker was negligent in failing to identify manufacturing flaws in the Camry model. Even though the company was exonerated in this case, it is facing federal suits stemming from several other fatal injuries. Toyota has spent billions of dollars on legal defense efforts in order to avoid financial penalties.
Even though the lawmaker was absolved in this case, the other wrongful death allegations may prove more fruitful, according to attorneys familiar with the California case. That situation featured several unique factors that caused the blame to be placed squarely on the at-fault driver. For example, an investigation into the crash showed that the collision caused the victim’s foot to become stuck on the car’s accelerator, causing the woman to crash into a tree and then a utility pole. Instead of blaming the manufacturer, then, the jury decided that the crash itself was the cause of the woman’s death.
Victims who have been injured or killed in other accidents related to this acceleration problem should not be dissuaded from seeking civil damages just because of this ruling. This case shows that a variety of compensation options exist for victims of such crashes; even if the manufacturer is not held liable, the at-fault driver can be held accountable for the devastating effects of a collision.
www.chicagotribune.com, “Jury awards $10 million in Toyota death case but absolves automaker” Ken Bensinger & Jerry Hirsch, Oct. 10, 2013