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