Toyota Reaches Settlement After Unintended Acceleration Crash
Written by James P. Nevin
Toyota recently reached a settlement with the victims of a deadly 2007 car crash, after a $3-million jury verdict.
The crash involved a 2005 Camry driven by Jean Bookout, 82, which suddenly accelerated through an intersection and hit an embankment. The driver was injured, and her passenger, Barbara Schwarz, 70, died. The settlement was reached the day after the jury awarded $1.5 million in compensatory damages to the injured driver, and $1.5 million to the family of the passenger who was killed in the accident.
The Oklahoma jury became the first to find Toyota responsible for the unintended acceleration of one of its vehicles. The jury found that Toyota had acted with “reckless disregard,” after failing to take action despite reports of problems with its cars. Deliberations on punitive damages were about to begin when the settlement was announced.
Toyota has recalled more than 11 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles since 2009 because of various issues, including floor mats that caused the accelerator to become stuck. The 2005 Camry in the Oklahoma trial was not included in any of these recalls.
Last year, Toyota agreed to pay $1.6 billion to settle a class action lawsuit. The settlement will compensate vehicle owners who suffered financial losses for the devaluation of their vehicles due to reports of sudden acceleration problems. It covered only economic losses and not liability in wrongful death or personal injury cases.
Toyota has previously won three jury verdicts, but none alleged that their vehicle had a software glitch. At trial, the plaintiffs’ attorney presented expert testimony by Michael Barr, a software expert, who analyzed the Toyota source code in the Camry’s throttle system. He stated that multiple problems with the software controlling Toyota’s throttle system could have caused the Camry involved in the 2007 crash to accelerate out of control.
On November 5, Toyota will face its first case in federal court. The automaker still faces more than 700 unintended acceleration cases, according to financial filings.
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