Toyota Settles in Shadow of Jury Award | Frenkel & Frenkel
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Dec 11
2013

Toyota Settles in Shadow of Jury Award

jury After a jury returned a $3 million compensatory award, Toyota reached a settlement in a case that may affect other pending suits, says Frenkel & Frenkel.

A jury returned a $3 million compensatory award in a case stemming from a sudden acceleration incident involving a Toyota Camry. Before the jury could return with a punitive award, the car manufacturer reached a confidential settlement with the families of driver Jean Bookout, who was injured in the crash, and passenger Barbara Schwarz, who died in the accident.

Sudden Acceleration

Toyota is facing hundreds of lawsuits related to sudden acceleration in their vehicles, and the company settled many of the high-profile cases. One involving a California Highway patrol officer who was killed along with three family members brought the sudden acceleration to national attention. The officer was driving a Lexus ES outside San Diego, and placed a 911 call reporting that his vehicle was out of control and approaching an intersection. The call ended when the vehicle crashed, killing all on board. Toyota settled that lawsuit for $10 million. When a similar incident occurred in the vehicle Bookout was driving, the car crashed into an embankment, severely injuring her and killing her passenger.

Software Problem

Testimony in the recent case claimed that software in the throttle system was to blame in the 2007 crash. According to software expert Michael Barr, multiple problems with the throttle software could have resulted in sudden acceleration of the vehicle. In the three lawsuits Toyota has won over the past few years, there has been no testimony of software defects. Instead, Toyota has blamed other factors for the problem, including issuing recalls for floor mats and gas pedals that could cause sudden acceleration. In most cases, the manufacturer has blamed drivers, claiming they confused the gas pedal with the brake pedal.

Settlement Could Help Others

Toyota quickly moved to settle the case once the jury's verdict was announced, despite the fact that Oklahoma sets a cap on punitive damages to 100 percent of the compensatory award. That meant that the plaintiffs could be awarded no more than $6 million. However, when the judge informed the jury of this, many were surprised, indicating that they intended to order a higher amount. This could mean good news for the hundreds who have filed lawsuits alleging defects caused sudden acceleration in their Toyota-manufactured vehicles.

When a car defect is suspected as the cause or a contributing factor in an accident that causes injury or death, a product liability lawsuit may be in order. Contact Dallas-Fort Worth lawyers at Frenkel & Frenkel to schedule a free initial consultation regarding an accident that may have been caused or worsened by an auto defect.

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