By on October 31, 2018

In the wake of a Dallas County judge’s decision to lower the amount of money awarded to a couple whose children were injured in a 2016 rear-end crash, Toyota Motor Corp. plans to continue fighting to clear its name.

A jury found the automaker at fault back in August, deciding that the seatbacks on the family’s 2002 Lexus ES300 were faulty and that the owners were not warned about the dangers. The family stood to receive $242 million in compensation. Due to monetary caps placed on punitive damages in the state of Texas, the final amount was pared back to $208 million.

Toyota isn’t letting the matter slide into the rear-view. The automaker continues to claim that the car’s seatbacks worked fine — the severity of the impact was to blame.

Benjamin and Kristi Reavis were stopped on Dallas’ North Central Expressway two years ago when their ES300 was rear-ended at high speed by a Honda Pilot. The front seatbacks collapsed, causing serious injury to their children, aged 3 and 5, who were strapped into car seats in the rear.

“While we respect the jury’s decision, we remain confident that the injuries sustained were the result of factors specific to this very severe collision, not a defect in the design or manufacturing of the 2002 Lexus ES300,” a Toyota spokesman told Reuters following the verdict.

Frank Branson, lead trial attorney for the Reavis family, argued that Toyota prioritized the safety of front-seat occupants over those in the rear, submitting evidence showing what he claimed were structural and design flaws in Toyota’s seats. “The men and women on this jury paid close attention to the evidence and the law in determining that Toyota deserved a sizable punishment,” he said in a statement his week. “We’re pleased that the judge looked closely at the trial record and made his ruling.”

The ruling doesn’t sit well with Toyota, which continues to argue that the impact was simply too strong for the seats to withstand.

“While we respect the court’s decision, we believe that the judgment suffers from serious flaws and that the law requires entry of judgment in Toyota’s favor,” a Toyota spokesperson told Automotive News. “We look forward to presenting the trial court with additional arguments for a new trial, and, if necessary, pursuing further review.”

[Image: Toyota Motor Corp]

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24 Comments on “Toyota Hopes for New Trial After Judge Awards Crash Victims $208 Million...”


  • avatar
    Duaney

    While we’re all sad to see any injury in a auto crash, the manufacturer’s can’t build vehicles like Sherman Tanks. There’s the law of diminishing returns. The proposed Federal mileage standards that now appear to be modified, would have really piled on the injuries and fatalities as the manufacturer’s would have had to make featherweight cars to achieve the high mpg, and thrown safety right out the window.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      When you are rear ended and the front seats back break and hurt your kids in the back seat maybe your tune will change.

      • 0 avatar
        Duaney

        I would really need to see all the engineering specs on the seats and then compare with other models and manufacturer’s. But my point being that we can’t build all cars like Sherman tanks, and when the Honda Pilot (a truck) hit the rear of the Lexus, it’s possible that any other car could have had the seats break, or worse. How do you protect if a one ton truck rear ends you or even a semi tractor, there’s really no way to build the vehicle crash proof. I just find it hard to accept that on a Lexus, the seats are extra flimsy, and when hit by a truck at high speed, they should withstand that kind of impact.

        • 0 avatar
          Garrett

          You don’t need to build them like tanks.

          Just build them to the same safety standards that Volvo does.

          For the price of a Lexus, Toyota can afford this.

          https://carseatblog.com/38404/collapsing-seat-backs-what-can-you-do/

          According to the link above, seatback strength has been a known issue for decades, and fixing it doesn’t introduce significant costs.

          • 0 avatar
            Duaney

            Actually wasn’t aware this has been a problem, maybe the safety standards need to be updated, and maybe all manufacturer’s should take a look into this. Have to admit I’m used to older vehicles, maybe those seats are better designed?

        • 0 avatar
          Erikstrawn

          “I would really need to see all the engineering specs on the seats and then compare with other models and manufacturer’s.”

          “Frank Branson, lead trial attorney for the Reavis family, argued that Toyota prioritized the safety of front-seat occupants over those in the rear, submitting evidence showing what he claimed were structural and design flaws in Toyota’s seats.”

          It’s easy to armchair quarterback the jury’s findings, but they got to see the evidence. I think $200+ million is crazy, but I wasn’t at the trial, so I won’t pass judgement.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    I got flack for this comment the first time this story came up-but I’m still of the opinion-“that’s it’s inherently unsafe to cart your kids around in a 16 year old car”.

    At average miles-per-year that car is at 200,000 miles. Yea-that’s real safe.

    • 0 avatar
      Cactuar

      So it’s safe for adults but unsafe for kids? Please explain how that works.

      • 0 avatar
        CKNSLS Sierra SLT

        Cactuar-

        The point being a 200,000 mile almost 20 year old car is inherently less safe than a newer one-regardless of who is riding in it.

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          14 year old car – average car is 11 years old – I thought part of the Lexus value prop was 250K miles and 20 years of near trouble free life.

          Feels like the goal posts are being moved.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            “I thought part of the Lexus value prop was 250K miles and 20 years of near trouble free life.”

            It is. I had 209k on my ’96 ES300 when I sold it, it finally needed the original struts replaced after a particularly pot-holey and cold winter. Still rode pretty good, just the strut mounts were getting noisy. The only other suspension bit on that car that wasn’t original were the rear swaybar bushings. All other control arms/bushings, balljoints were original and as good as new. Engine and transmission were in great shape, no oil consumption, trans shifted cleaner and smoother than most new cars. To my knowledge, the only repairs the car had earlier in its life was a radiator back in the mid-00s, the CV boots somewhere around the 140k mark, and one front wheel bearing at 196k. Aside from that it was a t-belt change at 100k miles and at 205k shortly after I bought it. I replaced a blower motor darlington transistor (plug and play $6 junkyard part), the only thing I didn’t get around to aside from the struts was an ABS wheel speed sensor that had broken off during the wheel bearing replacement by a less than careful shop. Oh and I replaced the incorrectly sized power steering belt that was too loose. I sold the car to a kid going off the college, and have seen it around a few times since. I have no doubt that it will easily cruise through the next 4 years of service.

          • 0 avatar
            dukeisduke

            That generation ES isn’t trouble-free – for example, with the MZ 3.0 (ES300) and 3.3 (ES330), the rear main seals have a reputation for leaks before 100k, and cars with 200-250k leak like a sieve. My mother-in-law lucked out when she had a 2005 ES330 – she took it in for service just before the powertrain warranty ran out, and the dealer noticed the rear seal was starting to leak, and replaced it. Another friend of ours has a 2004 ES300 that they bought used, and at 245k, it leaks like crazy.

            What was the closing speed of the Pilot to the ES, anyway? I haven’t seen that reported.

    • 0 avatar
      pdog_phatpat

      So dont do it.

    • 0 avatar
      Duaney

      I would agree with you, but it depends on where the car is located. In the eastern USA the high humidity attacks everything, especially if the car isn’t garaged. However, in the west, such as here in Colorado, I witness’d my father’s 51 Buick never requiring service on the hydraulic brake system, as well as our 59 Chevy. I once asked my dad if he flushed or replaced the brake fluid and he said no, never. Brake shoes were replaced, but wheel cylinders and the master cylinder never needed any attention. The underside of both vehicles looked like new even years later. Both cars were garaged. I just shipped the 59 Chevy to Sweden, only added a little brake fluid and the brakes still operated perfectly. I know, amazing isn’t it?

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        I’ve lived near the where the wreck occurred for 28 years and haven’t ever replaced a wheel cylinder in that time. I do siphon out brake fluid and add new fluid at about the same interval as replacing coolant, but could probably get away with ignoring this maintenance. If the Lexus ES 300 spent it’s life in North Texas, it wasn’t exposed to road salt. It probably was kept in a garage overnight for most of its life so it wouldn’t even be exposed to dew. On top of this, the front seats that failed wouldn’t experience much wear or corrosion inside the interior of the car.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      If the ES would have had the support in the rear for AWD like Buick LaCrosse things might be different.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      ….I got flack for this comment the first time this story came up-but I’m still of the opinion-“that’s it’s inherently unsafe to cart your kids around in a 16 year old car”.

      At average miles-per-year that car is at 200,000 miles. Yea-that’s real safe…

      Well, did it occur to you that they could not afford a newer car and still raise a family? If an older car has to be in the picture the ES is not a bad choice at all. I think it is safe to say that most parents would opt for the best/safest car they could afford to transport their kids. Not everybody can buy a new car every few years.

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      Please explain how age or mileage affects the strength of seat backs.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        Which was kind of my point above, but alas I did it in a snarky way.

        A 14 year old Lexus ES of that era is basically just broken in, and basic safety components like bracing of seat backs, side impact door bars, and the collapsible steering column aren’t going to be impacted with age. They will work or not – that simple.

        We see this in corporate America over and over again. At this point Toyota should just pay, or press for a negotiated settlement (which might be the strategy). The negative press isn’t worth it. Of course any settlement is sealed with a gag order and no admission of wrong doing.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    This was a Texas jury. They ignore the facts of a case and award astronomical judgments whenever the defendant is a large corporation. Werner Trucking was assessed $90 million for an accident that was entirely the plaintiffs’ fault. They were driving a pickup on an icy highway, crossed the median after losing control, and ran into an oncoming Werner 18 wheeler.

    I used to work for a large railroad. I knew a train engineer who transferred from Texas to Wyoming after three grade crossing accidents caused by drivers who ignored warning lights and/or went around gates. He told me that even the cops did this.

    • 0 avatar
      SaulTigh

      Lawsuits always follow the money, not the true fault. Young woman at my college back in the day got squashed in a crosswalk by a local driving an old pickup. Driver was about her age and didn’t have a dime to his name. Had insurance, but only at the state mandated minimums. Parents of the girl sued the state (because the road was part of the business route through town and the college because they put a building on the other side of the highway 30 years ago. I crossed this road many times. It was 2 lanes, 35 mph speed limit, with great sight lines both directions and large gaps in normal traffic.

      They’ve since lowered the speed limit to 25 and put in a flashing light, but I still don’t believe anyone is at fault but the girl crossing the street and the boy driving the truck.

  • avatar
    gtem

    Don’t get IIHS too many ideas.

    Announcing, the new rear-impact at 80mph test! Everything is failing, wow, how horribly unsafe! Gotta stay relevant folks!

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    Amount of the judgement is unreasonable.

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