Toyota’s legal problems are piling up. It is now being alleged that they killed a lawyer. The New York Daily News reports that 79-year-old lawyer Ernest Codelia Jr died of carbon monoxide poisoning and his partner, Mary Rivera was brain damaged. And their Lexus is being blamed. How come?
On February the 27th of 2009, Mary Rivera parked their Lexus in the ground floor garage attached to their home. Accidentally, she left the engine running. The next day, family members went to their home to find that Mary was unconscious on the bedroom floor and her partner, Ernest in bed, dead. An autopsy showed that Mr Codelia Jr’s blood was filled with carbon monoxide.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and toxic gas. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends that every home should have a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm. Apparently, the carbon monoxide invaded the bedroom. Miss Rivera survived but now cannot walk and speaks with difficulty. Now while this is rather sad, what has this got to do with Toyota getting sued? What did they do wrong?
Lawyer Noel Kushlefsky has filed a wrongful death suit in Brooklyn Federal Court against Toyota, the makers of Lexus cars. The suit claims that the keyless ignition feature violates federal safety standards because the engine can continue to run indefinitely even after the driver walks away with key fob that communicates with the car. Mr Kushlefsky accuses Toyota of failing to install a safety switch. A switch could turn the ignition off if the car had been idle for a while or unoccupied for a period of time. “It creates certain safety risks that did not exist with conventional key technology,” the suit says.
“This is a cool little bell-and-whistle to sell cars, but they have to address problems that have sprouted up,” said Mr Kushlefsky. The lawyer met with the NHTSA, and the agency is assessing keyless ignition systems and is aware of “some potential safety issues”.
Although conjecture, the article suggests that because the couple had the car for a short while, they may have been unfamiliar with the technology. Also, because the engine runs so quietly, Miss Rivera may not have realized that it was still running.
Lexus hasn’t commented on the issue. The suit has been filed. A similar case is reported from Florida. As the picture illustrates, our homes are full of carbon monoxide dangers. A running car in the garage is only one of them.