The first Toyota unintended acceleration case to go to a jury trial is in California court this week and expected to last for the next two months. Juries were selected on Monday. The decision jurors make in this case is expected to help predict the outcomes of 80 other state court cases against Toyota.
The issue is not new: Toyota is accused of manufacturing a defective vehicle and causing the accident that killed a California woman. The woman was driving a 2006 Camry when it unexpectedly accelerated and caused her to slam into a tree. Many similar cases have been settled, including a case involving the death of a California Highway Patrol Officer that happened on the same day. That accident occurred because a wrong-size floor mat entrapped the gas pedal. Toyota settled the victims’ family’s claim for $10 million.
But some victims advocates argue that settling these claims does not go far enough. Through the settlement, Toyota has been able to avoid admitting responsibility for an auto defect. The case before the California court will be the first to determine whether Toyota can be held liable for sudden acceleration under product liability laws.
One of the plaintiff’s arguments is that Toyota should have installed a brake override system that would override the accelerator whenever both brake and accelerator were pressed at the same time. Toyota did equip their European cars with this override system. Had American cars had the same system, many lives would have been saved in the last decade.
We will watch this lawsuit closely.