The first wrongful death lawsuit concerning the sudden acceleration of Toyota cars to go to trial has started with opening arguments. The lawyer for Noriko Uno’s family said that Toyota knew that their gas pedals could get stuck and that the company was liable for her death because Uno’s 2006 Camry did not have a brake override system. The Toyota that Uno, 66 at the time of her death, was hit by a car that ran a stop sign. Her Toyota subsequently accelerated down the wrong side of the road for 30 seconds before hitting a tree, causing her death.
Last month Toyota agree to settle, for $1.63 billion, an economic loss class action lawsuit filed by owners of Toyotas who claimed their vehicles’ value had depreciated after Toyota recalled over 10 million cars to address the unintended acceleration issue. While the car company has settled out of court with some claimants, the Uno case is the first to actually make it to a courtroom. About 85 personal injury and wrongful death suits have been consolidated in Los Angeles Superior Court.
The Uno family is seeking $20 million in damages, claiming that Toyota should have installed a brake override system that forces the engine’s throttle to return to the idle position when both the brake and gas pedals are depressed. When Uno’s car was manufactured, Toyota had already implemented brake overrides on models sold in Europe.
Toyota’s lawyers insist that Uno was at fault because she stepped on the gas, not brake, pedal and that a brake override system wouldn’t have prevented her death, the automaker claims, because she never tried to use her brake. In his opening statement, Toyota lawyer Vince Galvin said, “This is not a stuck-pedal case, it’s an alleged stuck foot case.” The plaintiffs allege that Uno’s right foot got stuck between the gas and the brake pedals, causing her to accelerate as she tried to brake with her left foot, a claim that Toyota says is not possible.