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.