After six days of deliberation, a Los Angeles county jury cleared Toyota Motor Corp. of responsibility in the first of “bellwether” cases, Yasuharu (Peter) Uno et al. v. Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. et al., LASC case number KC057888/JCCP4621. The family of the 66 year old driver, Noriko Uno, filed the action after her 2009 Camry accelerated out of control, causing her death. The family’s lawyer argued a brake override system could have saved Uno’s life. The brake override fail safe was adopted by many automakers in the early 2000s, but was not required under federal vehicle safety standards. Toyota did not begin using the brake override in its vehicles until 2010. In awarding Uno’s family with a $10 million verdict against the co-defendant driver, the jury found the accident was entirely the fault of the driver who crashed into the Camry, causing Uno to accidentally step on the accelerator and race out of control.
Despite hundreds of lawsuits filed against Toyota alleging sudden acceleration, only one case in New York reached a jury until now. Toyota was cleared in that case as well. Toyota has settled a significant number of cases out of court and late last year agreed to pay $1.6 billion to settle a class-action by thousands of Toyota owners contending the sudden acceleration devalued their vehicles. However, Toyota still faces scores of lawsuits over unintended acceleration, many of which claim the manufacturer’s vehicles contain electronic defects.