First Toyota Unintended Acceleration Wrongful Death Trial Begins

TTAC Staff
by TTAC Staff
first toyota unintended acceleration wrongful death trial begins

The first wrongful death lawsuit concerning the sudden acceleration of Toyota cars to go to trial has started with opening arguments. According to Bloomberg, 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.

Noriko Uno

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.

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  • Peter E. Puffington IV Peter E. Puffington IV on Aug 11, 2013

    I am confused on the issue of the EDR. The EDR is part of the car, isn't it? So the car belongs to the owner. When it gets totaled it may pass to the insurance company. If there is an investigation then the Cops would have it. So how does the manufacturer have it? If I had to guess I would say that it is because the protocols are proprietary and they are the only ones that can read them. So if these are going to be admissible as evidence in a legal proceeding shouldn't there be something more common? And what are the penalties if following a wreck I rip the EDR out and chunk it into a sewer? I figure my insurance company might have something to say, but then again it isn't there property until they settle and cut me the check for it and I am not keen on driving around with a recorder that is only going to be readable in the event that I screw up and wont bother to record anything that might implicate someone else. So I am confused.

    • See 8 previous
    • Doctor olds Doctor olds on Aug 12, 2013

      @DenveMike- Part of the problem in the discussion is the meaning of SUA. No doubt, a throttle sticking is unquestionably a non-compliance- Motor Vehice Safety Standards (MVSS)- require the throttle to return to idle in a very short time (I can't remember exactly, but in the sub 1 second range, or so as I recall.) That makes it a "Safety Recall", whether it really can or is causing incidents. Plenty of failures can necessitate Safety Recalls, whether due to simple non-compliance with a standard, or because they present an "un-reasonable risk to safety", a legal idea that also considers failure rate and circumstances under which the issue occurs. SUA is a very specific kind of failure mode, not a throttle sticking, or pedal being trapped by a floor mat. SUA has yet to be found in any product and NHTSA has been trying to find this elusive, mythical creature for many decades without success. That is just a fact.

  • Robert Fahey Robert Fahey on Aug 12, 2013

    Post-accident adrenaline ruins your judgment, yet you're operating heavy machinery at the time. Ugly irony.

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  • Tassos Despite the incomplete results, this article was the most useful, by far, of all TTAC articles for the entire Q3
  • Jkross22 Pedestrian.... trapped.... in San Francisco. Man, there's a lot of truth in this article.
  • Arthur Dailey What the heck is an 'influencer'?And who would buy or do something because somebody on a social media site told them to or recommended/flogged something?Maybe I am just too old and cynical to understand those who actually are 'influenced'? But then I also never trusted or was 'influenced' by celebrity endorsements or product placements.However I did know and coach a teenager who became extremely wealthy because he set up a Youtube channel where people paid to watch him and his friends play video games.
  • Dukeisduke $8,000 for this rustbucket? It's a '73, not a '74 ("Registered and titled as a 1973…it looks like a ‘74 to me"), and anyway, mid to late '60s Alfa Berlinas are much more desirable.Even if you kept it in a garage and didn't drive it in the rain, it wouldn't stop rusting, it might just progress more slowly. This looks more like a parts car than something you'd drive. It needs rear main seals all over the car, so that oil leaks can slow down the rust, like all the oil on the underbody.