In one of the first instances a case goes to trial since the Japanese company started the recall of millions of vehicles in 2009 over acceleration issues, Toyota Motor Corp has been found liable in an unintended acceleration lawsuit in the US.
The case, one of the hundreds that were filed by owners across the country, all claiming that their Toyota vehicles accelerated without motif, is the first to result in a verdict against the carmaker. In two previous instances, one in California and one in New York, the juries ruled in Toyota’s favor.
A jury in Oklahoma on Thursday gave $3 million in compensatory damages to Jean Bookout, a driver injured in a 2007 accident, and to the family of Barbara Schwarz, who was killed. The lawsuit said the car’s failure caused Bookout’s 2005 Camry to accelerate without warning, which caused the crash. Deliberations are also set for Friday to determine punitive damages.
The Oklahoma lawsuit said the Camry accelerated suddenly on Sept. 20, 2007, while Bookout was driving along an interstate highway and that using both the brake and the emergency brake was ineffective in slowing it down. Toyota has already agreed to pay more than $1 billion to settle class-action claims from owners over economic losses suffered because of the alleged defects. But that deal did not cover individual injury and wrongful death lawsuits.