By on October 11, 2013

Noriko-Uno-car-after-crash (1)

A Califonia jury ruled that Toyota Motor Corp was not at fault in a 2009 accident in which 66 year old Noriko Uno was killed when her 2006 Camry ran into a tree after being hit by another car. Uno’s survivors blamed the accident and her death on unintended acceleration and Toyota’s failure to incorporate a brake-override system in Uno’s car. This was the first wrongful death lawsuit over accusations that Toyota products could uncontrollably accelerate. The jury found that Uno’s Camry was not defective, instead placing full liability for her death on the driver of the car that hit Uno before she sped the wrong way down a one-way street and into the tree. Uno’s survivors were awarded $10 million.

The Uno case is seen as a bellwether for the outcomes of about 85 addition wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits filed in California state courts in the aftermath of millions of Toyotas in 2009 and 2010 to address reports of sudden unintended acceleration. Items addressed in those recalls included floor mats getting stuck under the gas pedal and possibly faulty pedal assemblies. 2006 Camrys, like the one Ms. Uno was driving, were not included in those recalls.

A Toyota spokesperson said that the company was pleased with the jury’s verdict. “We are gratified that the jury concluded the design of the 2006 Camry did not contribute to this unfortunate accident, affirming the same conclusion we reached after more than three years of careful investigation — that there was nothing wrong with the vehicle at issue in this case. We believe this verdict sets a significant benchmark by helping further confirm that Toyota vehicles are safe with or without brake override.”

Toyota has also won personal injury cases arising from the unintended acceleration issue in New York and in Pennsylvania. Another trial is underway in Oklahoma, and cases are set for trial in Michigan early next year and in federal district court next month in California, where about 200 wrongful death and personal injury suits against Toyota are pending.

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50 Comments on “California Jury Finds Toyota Not At Fault In Unintended Acceleration Wrongful Death Lawsuit...”


  • avatar
    Truckducken

    Amen.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    And what was the other car that hit her? A frickn’ Lexus! What is with Toyota owners?

  • avatar
    SayMyName

    Let’s hope this marks the beginning of other reasonable legal decisions in the overhyped UA fiasco.

    (Pause for uproarious laughter at the thought.)

  • avatar
    bachewy

    I read some old articles on this story and all the ones I saw failed to mention that another car hit her before she crashed and perished.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      There’s a good chance that the people who were responsible for writing and/or publishing those articles were just as technically savvy as the people who are suing Toyota (both plaintiffs and ambulance chasers).

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    Our legal system needs to be reformed, has a single reputable engineer found any evidence that there was any sort of “unintended acceleration” malfunction on any Toyota product?

    This is all about shaking down companies by blood-sucking lawyers and hoping billion dollar companies cough up money to get rid of bad PR.

    We need a “loser pays” system like the rest of the world. It would weed out the nonsense.

    American companies spend more on tort claims than they do on research and development. It’s sickening.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      This very website called Toyota out on their built-to-spec CTS pedal that was sticking. That is why they recalled them.

      • 0 avatar
        jacob_coulter

        Toyota also recalled floor mats, they were trying to eliminate all possible areas of contention, even the ridiculous.

        I’m still not convinced, and I certainly don’t buy into the nonsense of cars going down the freeway at 90mph because the throttle was sticking.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          Given a stuck wide-open throttle, brakes can quickly fade to nothing and power assist will be gone after a few pumps. So yes, 90 MPH runaways can happen.

          I don’t believe the Toyotas in question, accelerated on their own, but I don’t believe it can be completely proven that they didn’t. Computers can go berserk and not save the incident . Toyota knows this and refuses to ‘scan’ some of the Event Data Recorders . EDRs can reveal exactly what the driver did and didn’t do before a crash. Toyota owns a controls the only scanners that can read those EDRs.

          Most cases are obviously driver error, while others make you wonder. Toyota is quick to settle with plaintiffs on the latter.

          • 0 avatar
            Zekele Ibo

            How can it happen? If you put the gearbox in neutral the brakes won’t fade as they would not be fighting the engine. If you cut the engine by turning the key, you won’t get brake assist (or if you turn the key too far, you might not get steering), but you won’t get a “90 MPH runaway”.

            It still comes down to driver error and/or incompetence. Throttles can get stuck, the cable can break, something in the cabin can jam it open, but there is no reason why a competent driver cannot stop the car.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            If the car is in ‘runaway’ mode, for whatever reason, yes the driver is competent for not being able to bring it to a safe stop. But that’s not the question here. And incompetence is protected by one of the Amendments and or Constitution…

            OEMs still have to ‘idiot proof’ their cars and safety needs to be redundant, similar to airships. So it shouldn’t matter if it’s ‘driver error’, a car’s malfunction or a combination of.

            But I disagree that you can turn the ignition (key) too far. When it’s in DRIVE (or anything but PARK), the key won’t turn to LOCK.

            Besides the problems in auto design, we need better driver training, especially in the area of ‘what if’ scenarios.

            Back when these cases were in the news, my cousin picked me up for lunch in his new Lexus. So while we were driving down he street, I had to asked him if he knew to pop it into NEUTRAL if it ran away. He was too scared to push it into NEUTRAL, not being sure if the car would “flip” or something ignorant. I didn’t press the issue, but he’s a highly educated/successful exec. Not educated enough, if you ask me.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        Do you find it odd that there were 2 pedals designed to Toyota specs, one was built by Denso and the other by CTS. The Denso built pedal was not recalled.
        Point is – Toyota took it on the chin because their name is on the vehicle.

        • 0 avatar
          NormSV650

          Toyota gas pedal article here on TTAC has a complete teardown of the pedals. The CTS Corporation also makes pedals for other major auto manufactuers and not recalled. It was the specification as to which Toyota had the pedal was made is the problem.

          Considering Toyotas recalls defective parts and rust the whole has been car or truck has been under engineered. Especially compared to a decade earlier made car by TMC.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Toyota threw CTS under the bus, but I don’t believe the pedals were defective. Toyota was scrambling to solve the “mystery” and calm mass hysteria. Especially when “runaway” Toyotas didn’t have the wrong floor mat. The CTS pedal recall was also a ploy to shift blame and gain some sympathy, even if ultimately, legally responsible.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            Actually – Ford recalled pedals made by CTS at the same time but that was for Transit vans sold in China.

            As I pointed out Denso made the SAME pedals to the SAME specs as specified by Toyota.

            The only difference were the wiring harnesses.

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      As attractive as ‘loser pays’ sounds at first, what it would most effectively achieve would be to scare legitimately wronged plaintiffs away from the courtroom because they just could not afford to potentially lose no matter how strong their case might be. In a world with highly complex products, the tort system is what motivates business to perform the testing and QA that keeps everything from falling to Shanghai-grade safety.

      So granny Uno’s family gets a $10 million award: from who, the other driver? Unless she was hit by Bill Gates, that’s probably way beyond the driver’s insurance coverage, so they can take up their claim at bankruptcy court. I thought judgments for wrongful death were based on the decedent’s future earning potential, or is everyone in CA assumed to be worth 10 million now?

      • 0 avatar
        jacob_coulter

        I’d be willing to let a few people get scared off from large lawsuits rather than our current system of companies being shaken down on a regular basis. What it would really do is stop all the lawyers working on contingency that know they have no case and just want to scare a company into a settlement.

        Also, we’re the only country that has such a crazy legal system. Do you really think the rest of the world lives in tyranny because it doesn’t have a “sue-friendly” system?

        • 0 avatar
          jpolicke

          “Do you really think the rest of the world lives in tyranny because it doesn’t have a “sue-friendly” system?”

          I wouldn’t call it tyranny, I just think a lot of legitimately injured people get screwed over in a loser-pays system because they’re terrorized out of standing up for their rights. Take someone who knows that the ‘whatever’ they bought was defective and harmed them or a loved one. They’ve already suffered a catastrophic loss, now you want them to literally bet the house on suing for redress. Part of the taxes we all pay goes to support the court system, so tell you what: since I’m not considered worthy to use it for free, just rebate that share of my tax bill. That way the big shots can have full use of the courts to sue each other without pests like me gumming up the works.

          We don’t want government to micromanage businesses, so the only alternative to holding business responsible for their products is the tort system. Products are too complicated nowadays to base our entire society on “caveat emptor”.

          Note that Toyota didn’t rush in and offer a settlement in this case. Companies that just throw money at cases to make them go away have contributed to litigiousness. Of course a contingency lawyer will take any client that walks in when he knows that the odds are he can shake down the defendant for a quick settlement.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          I would think that a conservative would know better than to interfere with the payment terms of a contract between a professional services provider and his client.

          It’s not really your business. Be true to your political mantra, and remove your nose from the private affairs of business people and their customers.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      In our system, the “losers” are the contingency fee lawyers who hoped to make a killing (pardon the expression) with an individual case, but instead have to pay their own, and court costs for a failed (to them) trial. As the list of Toyota “wins” increases, the contingency lawyers will be far less likely to take on these cases. It’s a slower process, but it penalizes lawyers instead of ‘loser pays’ laws that dissuade people who honestly think they have a case from seeking a court remedy.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        Lorenzo, are you a lawyer. Only a lawyer can defend this stupid legal system. The only people that get scared off are ambulance chasers. Even in this Toyota case, how much in legal fees will Toyota end up paying even though they are found not responsible. What can they do, counter-sue the family? Not very likely. In this country, I can sue you for anything I want, even writing the post above, and then you have to go to court or a default judgement will be made against you. How is this not ridiculous?

        • 0 avatar
          JimC2

          MBella, if you have never been to law school then you couldn’t possibly understand how all this works. So just nod and smile- and be thankful that there are law firms with your best interests at heart. And if you have been hurt or injured, call 1-800-BLD-SUKR for help getting the money you deserve (minus 90% retainer fee).

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          No, I’m not a lawyer, I’m a retired state highway engineer with a few experiences having to design for the lowest common denominator to avoid lawsuits. I was IN NO WAY defending the legal system, just pointing out some of its “niceties”.

          It IS better than the trial-by-fire and trial-by-combat systems that preceded it, and it grew out of a host of barons vs. king squabbles that became English common law, which still underpins our legal system.

          Other legal systems are and have been much worse. I guess you can apply Churchill’s comment about democracy to our legal system: It’s the worst system ever devised, except for all the others that have been tried.

  • avatar
    brettc

    “Watch out for that tree!” – what I keep hearing in my head

    So was this woman hitting the go and stop pedals at the same time? I fail to understand the level of stupid required to make this collision occur in the first place. Toyota should have had a system to cut fuel to the engine if both pedals are pressed. I learned long ago on my first TDI that the Germans don’t tolerate both feet on both pedals at the same time.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      It is entirely possible that this “stupid woman” was knocked unconscious with her foot on the go pedal in the initial crash.

      This happened right outside my bedroom window a couple years ago – drunk managed to crash his truck into my neighbors tree. Knocked him out cold with his foot hard down on the gas pedal – resulted in a very impressive smoky burnout for a minute or so until he woke up. Took about the time it took me to realize what was going on, get dressed, and go down and see if I could help. I helped him out of the truck, but he was more-or-less awake by that point. And completely and utterly sh!tfaced!

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      I don’t know if it was this case or another, but Toyota analyzed the data recorded and flatly claimed the brake was never applied.

      Toyota claimed that the woman had a medical condition that caused her to pass out, have a seizure, or something, which led to her inability to drive her vehicle or prevent the collision with the tree.

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        She had diaibetes. Next they’ll be blaming Americans for FTS(Fat Thigh Syndrome). Asians don’t get sugar do they?

        • 0 avatar
          Kenmore

          The funny thing is that when you get type 2 diabetes you’ll think you can just cut back on overtly sugary stuff and be OK.

          Sayonara. And say gomen’nasai to Uno-san when you see her.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        The medical condition could have contributed to her disorientation after being hit. The initial collision was found to be the cause.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          Type II diabetes does not “kick in” after being hit in the head. A Type II diabetic would be more likely to be hyperglycemic which could make her more dopy. It also would depend on the type of medications she was taking to control blood sugars and when she last ate.
          Diabetes in the context of her fatal MVC would be a red herring or a defense against culpability for Toyota or for whom ever crashed into her.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            Lorenzo could be right for a host of symptomatic reasons; chief ones being severe lightheadedness/disorientation, racing pulse and associated adrenal reaction, and degraded vision. If her diabetes were sufficiently advanced she could’ve been living every waking moment at the edge of functionality.

            These wouldn’t “kick in” per se, but they’d definitely affect her ability to sufficiently recover from a sudden shock like the first impact. They could also have made her easier to render unconscious from the Lexus hit.

            (Reaches for his own Metformin)

  • avatar
    Onus

    I wish this crap didn’t happen. Now nearly all cars have brake override. Which sucks. Because there is a few times when being able to use the brake and the throttle at the sometime is advantageous even on a automatic car.

    We have some pretty steep hills around where i live. I’ll roll backwards or i can just jam the gas and burn my tires. Nope instead i hold the brake and depress the throttle, take the brake off, and now I’m going up the hill.

    • 0 avatar
      ExPatBrit

      When I was learning to drive, we had this ingenious device called a hand brake that people actually used to stop them rolling backwards.

      Your in-ability to master this whilst also controlling the car with the clutch and gas pedals would automatically cause you to fail your driving test.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        I don’t know if his big ol’ truck has a dainty little hand brake shrieking “Use ME! Let me help!”

        • 0 avatar
          Onus

          Foot parking brake.

          This was my driving test. Drive around the block, use your signals, don’t hit anybody and back into a parking space you get your license.

          My truck has all new cables. They are not hooked up as my adjuster is rusted to crap and i need it to go further haven’t bothered to fix it yet.

          Its a automatic so i can get away with it.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            I once got a car home after the brake lines blew by holding out the parking brake release handle and using the foot parking brake like a normal brake pedal.

            Weak, of course, but it did the trick. Luckily this happened late at night and near home so I was able to crawl along. I mostly just let idle speed pull me along.

          • 0 avatar
            Onus

            Just happened to this actually blew out a line in rush hour on the highway a couple weeks ago. If it was like your story i would have driven home too. But in rush hour heck no. I was lucky the lane next to me was open and i didn’t hit the car in front of me.

            The drums are so weak without the disks in the front. My front line blew out so it was very fun.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            Jeez… glad you got through that OK.

            Talk about worse-case scenario… too bad it wasn’t a stick, at least you could’ve compression braked.

            THAT is the absolute best thing about manual trannys.

    • 0 avatar
      potatobreath

      Actually, Toyota brake override is programmed to let you use the brake pedal to hold you on a hill while you are rolling on the throttle. You can also heel-toe on a manual transmission car.

      What you won’t be able to do is adjust your direction by dabbing on the brakes at wide open throttle like on a go-kart; the system will cut engine power.

      There’s a handy chart posted in TTAC’s earlier article: “Toyota’s Jim Lentz Testifies in Unintended Acceleration Wrongful Death Suit”.

  • avatar
    redav

    Noriko Uno’s untimely death is a shame, and I have no doubt that her family has suffered because of it.

    However, there is no way her life was worth $10M. Our sue-happy culture and expection of a jackpot when wronged by others disgusts me.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      While I don’t care for our sue happy society, I think its wrong to place a value onto somebodies life. Unos relatives shouldn’t have used this case to yank more money.

    • 0 avatar
      Chicago Dude

      It’s a good thing you’re able to put a price on someones life without knowing anything about her except what you read in the biased, scandal-seeking news media.

      I believe that there may be some job openings on Obama’s death panel; you appear to be the perfect candidate.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Toyota lucked out that there was a co-defendant to take the blame. If it were just Toyota, a big-hearted jury like some of the ones I’ve seen might have nailed the company to make it up to that poor family.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    One can blame a flaw in a car design but as others have pointed out, the biological interface with the mechanical is ultimately to blame.

    Anyone here old enough to remember standard transmission vehicles that could be started in gear? or auto trans put in gear without applying the brake?

    Most of this “safety” stuff was placed on vehicles because someone did something stupid and blamed the machine.

    I’d rather have one of these “safer” vehicles but we as a society have lost site of what constitutes personal responsibility.

    It is unfortunate that this lady died and her family and friends have had to grieve her loss but with all due respect to this lady and her family, why should Toyota be expected to be on the hook for 10 million?

  • avatar
    CelticPete

    Both Audi and Toyota have gotten screwed over this BS over the years. Almost all the time its hitting the wrong pedal. Once in a while its a floor mat. And the other times I think people are just BSing.. Like those high speed chases with the cops and such.


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