Toyota Out $3 Million After Losing First Acceleration Lawsuit Ever

Illustration for article titled Toyota Out $3 Million After Losing First Acceleration Lawsuit Ever

Toyota has been dogged with lawsuits for years over claims of unintended acceleration in their cars, but they've never actually lost a case that went to a jury — until yesterday. An Oklahoma jury ruled the automaker must pay $3 million for two claims over an injury and a death related to unintended acceleration.

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Bloomberg reports that the case dealt with a 2005 Toyota Camry driven by 76-year-old Jean Bookout which reportedly sped out of control while exiting an Oklahoma highway in 2007. The car crashed, injuring Bookout and killing her passenger, 70-year-old Barbara Schwarz.

The jury ruled that Camry's electronic system was defective and Toyota acted with "reckless" disregard, Bloomberg reports. The automaker must pay $1.5 million for each claim, and the jury today is considering punitive damages as well.

A lawyer for Bookout said Toyota knew as far back as 2004 that they had issues with out of control cars, and blamed its electronic throttle-control system. Bookout's lawyers said that sticky floor mats do not explain all of the unintended acceleration cases that have popped up.

But a lawyer for Toyota said there was no mechanical issue with the Camry and said Bookout instead made a mistake while driving — possibly pushing the accelerator instead of the brake as she left the highway.

Evidently, the jury didn't buy that explanation. This case is just one of several hundred claims filed against Toyota in state and federal courts over out of control cars, one that previously involved massive recalls and a PR crisis.

As I noted before, this is the first time Toyota has lost such a case, although they did settle a class-action lawsuit over unintended acceleration that cost them a staggering $1.3 billion, which was good for lawyers and basically no one else.

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In the first standalone case in California that happened earlier this month, a jury ruled that a driver in his 80s was at fault, not the car. And when the federal government investigated the crashes, they found that pedal mix-ups were largely the cause of the crashes, a position we at Jalopnik have maintained for years.

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But hey, you can convince a jury of anything. It will be very interesting to see how juries view the hundreds of other cases headed to trial in the next few years. Sure, $3 million is a drop in the bucket for Toyota — they probably earn that much in a week's worth of Corolla sales or something crazy like that — but public perception problems are more expensive in the long run.

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One thing is for sure: these headaches are far from over for Toyota.

Hat tip to Ilya!

DISCUSSION

bhyman0
Mr. Sinister

Jesus Harold Christ on a fucking wooden crutch. How do people not know what to do when your throttle sticks open? Why do they not teach people this when they get their license? Why is it not a question on the written exam? Why do auto manufacturers not put it on a decal on the visor, like all the other unnecessary crap they put on there now? Even if this was a legitimate equipment fault, this is NOT a new thing. Carburetor linkages used to hang up all the time. Floormats have gotten stuck on gas pedals for as long as there's been floormats. If you do not know how to properly operate the 2 ton piece of machinery you're hurtling down the road mere feet from other hurtling 2 ton pieces of machinery, you have no business operating one.

Yeah, this lady was 76, maybe she can be forgiven for not knowing, right? Well she damn sure knew how to file a lawsuit, didn't she? Toyota didn't kill your passenger, YOU did, by not knowing the proper procedures. We're talking about a 2005 Camry, here, not a Ferrari. How long does it take to accelerate to a speed in which you lose control? Damn sure long enough to read the situation and react accordingly. If it was not long enough for her at her age to do so, she has no business being on the road.

Yeah, maybe I'm a heartless bastard, so flame away. But I damn sure will never sue anyone over my own stupidity.