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Auto Products Liability Lawsuit Blames Toyota for Toddlers Death

A California family is suing Toyota for wrongful death. The Benson family contends that the car manufacturer failed to properly notify them that the steering relay rod in their motor vehicle was defective and, as a result, their 18-month-old toddler died in an auto crash.
The deadly California car accident occurred on Christmas Eve in 1997 when the steering relay rod, which connects the two wheels, broke and Cindi Benson lost control of the vehicle. The Toyota went off the road and hit a tree. Lilian Benson died from her injuries on Christmas day. Her siblings, Frank Benson, then 4, and Laquita Benson, then 7, sustained injuries.
This is not the first auto products liability lawsuit to be filed against Toyota over a defective steering relay rod. Earlier this year, the parents of Levi Stewart sued the car maker for failing to issue a recall in the 90′s over the faulty auto part. A recall was eventually issued the following decade but only at first in Japan.
Stewart, 18, died on September 15, 2007 when the steering relay rod of his Toyota pickup truck broke and he lost control of the vehicle. Friends who were in the truck with him sustained serious injuries. Stewart’s father, Mike Stewart, did not receive a notice from Toyota that the 1991 truck may have contained a defective part until three month’s after his son’s death.
Toyota issued its recall of the defective steering relay rod in the US in 2005. A letter sent that year by Toyota’s North American subsidiary to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration noted that there could be 977,839 motor vehicles affected by the defective auto part, including the:

  • Toyota 4Runner, 1989 to 1995 models
  • Toyota Truck, 1989 to 1995 models
  • Toyota T100, 1993 to 1998 models

The Benson family’s California wrongful death attorney says that only about 30% of the cars had been repaired a year and a half after the recall was announced and not everyone was properly notified about the recall. Usually, a repair of approximately 70% of the vehicles that are part of a recall is considered the pass/fail rate.
Other auto products liability lawsuits have been filed by families in Louisiana and Kentucky.

Humboldt family says faulty Toyota car part resulted in baby’s death, Times-Standard, May 11, 2009
Idaho family sues after son dies in recalled Toyota, KTVB, March 26, 2009
Related Web Resources:
Auto Recalls, Justia