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Toyota Settles California Auto Products Liability Lawsuit Over Wrongful Deaths of Family Killed in Sudden Acceleration Lexus Crash

Toyota Motor Corp. and the relatives of the Saylor family and Chris Lastrella have reached an out-of-court San Diego auto products liability settlement over the victims’ California wrongful deaths. Mark Saylor, his wife Cleofe, their daughter Mahala, and Cleofe’s brother Chris Lastrella were killed last August when the 2009 Lexus E350 that they were riding accelerated out of control to up 120 miles per hour on the freeway before striking another vehicle and crashing into a ravine. The car was on loan from the Bob Baker Lexus dealership while Saylor’s car was undergoing repairs.
The tragic San Diego car crash, which involved an ill-fitting floor mat that had jammed the accelerator, brought to attention the issue of sudden unintended acceleration related to Toyota vehicles. Since then, the automaker has recalled millions of vehicles over sudden acceleration issues and other safety defects. Some 5.4 million autos were recalled internationally because of the floor mat defect. About 4.5 million autos had to have their gas pedals replaced.
Dozens of people have filed auto products liability lawsuits and thousands of others have submitted complaints to federal regulators saying that they too have experienced Toyota sudden acceleration issues. At least 93 deaths are being linked to the Toyota auto defects. One man was even released from prison after his vehicular manslaughter conviction for the 2006 motor vehicle deaths of three people was thrown out. Koua Fong Lee has always said that he was stepping on the brakes when his 1996 Toyota Camry accelerated suddenly.
The Saylor family and Lastrella family have filed negligence claims against the Bob Baker Lexus dealership that are not covered by their auto products liability settlement with Toyota. Some are speculating that by leaving the negligence claim against the dealership out of the auto products liability settlement, Toyota is blaming it for the victims’ deaths because the wrong floor mat was inserted in the driver’s side. Earlier this year, the dealership filed a cross-complaint against Toyota claiming that the car manufacturer should be liable for auto defects that are inherent to the vehicle.
This week, Toyota filed a motion to dismiss hundreds of federal lawsuits seeking class action status. The automaker contends that the complaints do not identify even one electronic defect that could have caused the sudden acceleration issue.
Toyota settles suit over Saylor car crash, Los Angeles Times, September 17, 2010
Toyota Settles Over California Deaths, NY Times, September 18, 2010
Freed Toyota Driver: My Children Don’t Know Me, ABC News, August 6, 2010
Related Web Resources:
Toyota Recall Information, Toyota
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Toyota Safety Issues, Product Liability Law Blog

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