Jury Finds Toyota Not Liable in Death of California Driver
A jury in Los Angeles cleared Toyota Motor of fault on Thursday in a fatal 2009 accident in which a 66-year-old woman crashed her Camry.
The case is the first of about 85 personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits brought against Toyota in California state court because of complaints related to sudden, unintended acceleration and the resulting wave of recalls in 2009 and 2010. The 2006 Camry driven by the victim was not included in the recalls.
The California jury’s decision is in line with Toyota’s winning verdicts in cases in New York and Philadelphia. Toyota is also on trial, or scheduled to stand trial, for death and personal injury lawsuits in Oklahoma City, Santa Ana, Calif., and Michigan.
The family of the victim, Noriko Uno, said that Ms. Uno tried to stop her 2006 Camry before crashing into a tree in Upland, Calif., but that a faulty accelerator and the lack of a brake-override system made the car speed out of control in the wrong direction on a one-way street.
The jury found that the Camry did not have a defect that caused the crash. It said that the driver of a vehicle that crashed into Ms. Uno’s car was at fault for the accident and should pay $10 million in damages to Ms. Uno’s husband and son.
It was the first so-called bellwether case in state courts, chosen by a judge to help predict the potential outcome of other lawsuits making similar claims.
“We sympathize with anyone in an accident involving one of our vehicles as well as the family and friends of Noriko Uno,” Toyota said in a statement Thursday.
“Regarding the verdict, we are gratified that the jury concluded the design of the 2006 Camry did not contribute to this unfortunate accident, affirming the same conclusion we reached after more than three years of careful investigation — that there was nothing wrong with the vehicle at issue in this case.”
The decision was a “double victory” for Toyota, said Jack Nerad, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book.
“Not only was the company found not liable, the victim’s award will come from the person whom the jury found caused the accident, not the deep pockets of the automaker,” Mr. Nerad said.
An attorney for the family, Garo Mardirossian, could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.