First cases of sudden unintended acceleration in Toyota and Lexus vehicles were reported about 10 years ago. However these cases remained unnoticed until tragic car crash of August 2009 claiming lives of the driver and his 3 passengers. An off-duty California highway patrolman Mark Saylor crashed a borrowed Lexus ES350 killing himself, his wife, daughter and brother-in-law. The notorious crash riveted public`s and federal government`s attention on issues related to unintended accelerations in Toyota vehicles.
The crash in Santee was not the only fatal one. At least 16 cases of fatal death and 243 injuries in Toyota vehicle crashes were reported to be result of sudden unintended acceleration. National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) together with NASA experts launched unprecedented investigation which lasted 10 months. NHTSA report confirmed that unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles are result improperly installed floor mats which entrap accelerator pedal and don`t allow it to return to its idle position.
National Class Action
Under U.S. federal law lawsuits can be consolidated into a class action in case when total number of plaintiffs is 100 and more, damages done exceed $ 5 million and the judge is induced that the cases are almost identical.
Since massive safety Toyota recalls stemming from unintended acceleration 200 separate class action lawsuits filed against Japanese automaker in federal and state courts were assembled into one national class action.
Toyota owners claim that their vehicles went down in price due to recalls and federal investigations, and now they seek compensation for economic losses irrespective of whether they personally experienced brake defects or unintended acceleration. Injury and wrongful death cases were not included in class action lawsuits. The plaintiffs also accuse Toyota of ignoring evidences of unintended acceleration in its vehicles and failing to install a brake override system which would have prevented crashes. National class action on behalf of Toyota owners was filed by “McCuneWright” LLP, a law firm in Southern California.
At the end of 2013 three years after the nation class action was filed against Japanese auto maker Toyota announced about settlement reached with plaintiffs. The settlement entered into modern automotive history as the largest one. Cost of the settlement is estimated approximately $1.1 billion. According to the settlement Toyota is due to
• install brake override systems in recalled vehicles
• to compensate owners who had to sell their vehicle at low price
• to allocate funds for auto safety study and enhancement of drivers` education process.