Toyota cleared of liability in unintended acceleration case

Toyota cleared of liability in unintended acceleration case

In legal parlance, a bellwether case is a court decision that could be used to inform other, similar court decisions in the future. It is a common term used in cases where a single act of possible negligence could have resulted in the injury or death for many different parties.

This month, Toyota won a bellwether case against a plaintiff who alleged that their 2006 Toyota Camry was a dangerous product. The lawsuit was a product of the unintended acceleration scandal that gripped the country in 2009-2010, in which several Toyota vehicles were accused of accelerating out of control, leading to serious injuries among drivers and passengers.

The case revolved around an incident in 2009, in which a California woman was killed after she was apparently unable to stop her vehicle. Her car had been struck by a driver who drove through a stop sign; following this collision, her car continued forward, eventually striking a tree.

The woman's family alleged that Toyota was negligent in failing to include a brake override system in the Camry, which they say would have prevented this fatal accident. Toyota said that their car was not unsafe in any way and alleged that the woman simply didn't apply the brakes after the initial collision with the other driver.

Ultimately, the jury ruled in favor of Toyota, concluding that the car was not responsible for the accident. Instead, 100 percent of the liability was placed upon the driver who struck the Camry seconds before it accelerated into the tree. Jurors stated that that driver should be forced to pay $10 million in to the woman's family as restitution for the pain and suffering they have endured as a result of the fatal accident.

The case is a major victory for Toyota, who is still facing dozens of similar cases across the country. Given the results of this case, their legal troubles may be somewhat lighter in the future, though all cases were born of slightly different circumstances and should be examined carefully and individually. Next month, another similar unintended acceleration case begins in Santa Ana, California.

Source: Automotive News, "Calif. jury clears Toyota in fatal Camry crash" No Author Given, Oct. 14, 2013

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