Issue: Sudden unintended acceleration
Toyota Recall and Toyota Sudden Acceleration Lawsuits
Elizabeth J. Cabraser serves as Co-Lead Counsel for the plaintiffs in the Toyota injury cases in federal court and our firm represents injured persons nationwide and families of loved ones who died in Toyota sudden acceleration accidents. You can read a copy of the complaint our firm prepared, entitled Spisto v. Toyota Motor North America.
From 2002 through 2010, the electronic throttle system in most Toyota vehicles relied on sensors, microprocessors and electronic motors to connect the accelerator pedal to the engine throttle plate, and was not equipped with a safety feature, known as ‘brake-to-idle’ override, that enables drivers to override the electronic throttle and control the vehicle in the event of a sudden unintended acceleration.
In March 2010, the Los Angeles Times reported that more than 60 drivers have complained of sudden acceleration incidents despite the fact that their cars were repaired by Toyota following their recall.
[The photo at left shows the exterior of a 2006 Toyota Prius owned by the Donoghue family of Holdredge, Nebraska after it suffered a sudden acceleration accident that killed John Donoghue and severely injured Jacquelyn Donoghue. Lieff Cabraser is representing Ms. Donoghue]
Why We Believe Toyota is Liable in these Acceleration Cases
In the lawsuits filed against Toyota by Lieff Cabraser’s clients, the plaintiffs charge that:
- Toyota knew of numerous complaints that its vehicles suddenly accelerate and could not be stopped by proper application of the brake pedal;
- Toyota failed to exercise ordinary care and breached its duty to manufacture and sell safe automobiles by:
- producing vehicles Toyota knew or should have known were defectively designed and/or manufactured and were therefore prone to failure under normal driving conditions, potentially causing injuries and/or deaths;
- failing to incorporate within its vehicles a brake override system and other safeguards that could have prevented sudden unintended acceleration; and
- failing to adequately identify and mitigate the hazards associated with sudden unintended acceleration in accordance with good engineering practices.
"The brake-to-idle safety feature is used by other automotive manufacturers," stated Lieff Cabraser attorney Robert J. Nelson. "The complaints allege that Toyota’s failure to incorporate it played a direct role in the deaths and injuries of scores of persons across America."
Consumer Reports Video: How ‘Brake Override’ Stops Runaway Cars
Toyota Acceleration Injury Lawsuits Update: Settlement Process Announced
On December 12, 2013, the Federal and California Courts overseeing the majority of personal injury and wrongful death Toyota lawsuits issued orders announcing that Toyota had agreed to begin to settle the cases. Toyota will begin settlement conferences on a case-by-case basis in the Spring 2014.
Two years earlier, U.S. District Court Judge James V. Selna of the Central District of California denied Toyota’s motion to dismiss the lawsuits, rejecting Toyota’s argument that plaintiffs did not identify the specific cause of why its vehicles are unexpectedly accelerating.
The Court held:
Toyota demands a level of specificity that is not required at the pleadings stage. The defect is identified: Plaintiffs’ cars suddenly and unexpectedly accelerate and do not stop upon proper application of the brake pedal. Causes of the defect are identified: an inadequate fault detection system and electronic failures. An alternative design (that allegedly would have prevented the defect from injuring Plaintiffs) is identified: a brake override system. These allegations do more than merely recite the elements required for design defect claims under California law, and plausibly give rise to an entitlement of relief.