Toyota to face U.S. trial over vehicle acceleration

Tue Oct 8, 2013 1:58pm EDT
 
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By Jessica Dye

(Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T: Quote) must face a trial over claims that it failed to warn the public about design defects that caused certain vehicles to accelerate unintentionally, a federal judge in California has ruled.

U.S. District Judge James Selna in the Central District of California on Monday denied Toyota's motion to dismiss defective-design and failure-to-warn claims brought against it by the estate of Ida St. John, who said in 2009 that her 2005 Camry sped out of control and hit a school building. She died after giving that testimony, but the lawsuit does not claim that her death was caused by the crash.

The judge did grant the Japanese automaker's motion to dismiss manufacturing defect and negligence claims.

St. John testified that her Camry accelerated even though she did not press the pedal. The trial, slated to begin November 5, will be one of the first of the many federal lawsuits focusing on the Toyota acceleration issues that prompted the automaker to recall millions of vehicles beginning in 2009.

The first federal sudden-acceleration case to go to trial ended with a win for Toyota in 2011, in a lawsuit brought by a doctor who worked in Brooklyn.

A spokeswoman for Toyota, Amanda Rice, said in a statement on Tuesday that St. John failed to prove the vehicle was defective and that the company is "confident the evidence at trial will confirm that Toyota drivers can depend on their vehicles to provide safe, reliable transportation."

A lawyer for the St. John estate, Todd Walburg, said in a statement, "It's time for a jury to hear about the defects that we've been studying over the past three years."

Since the recall, more than 500 individual and 200 proposed class-action lawsuits have been filed against Toyota in U.S. federal and state courts, according to a regulatory filing from the Japanese automaker.   Continued...

 
A sign with a logo is on display at a Toyota car sales and showroom in St. Petersburg, September 18, 2013. REUTERS/Alexander Demianchuk