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First Toyota acceleration wrongful death case comes to a close

The first wrongful death case related to Toyota's acceleration issue that garnered much negative publicity for the auto maker several years ago is coming to an end in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Attorneys are making their closing arguments in the two-month-long trial.

The lawsuit involves the 2009 death of a woman whose Camry went out of control. Her husband and son are suing the auto maker, asserting that the accelerator malfunctioned. They are asking for damages of $20 million.

The 66-year-old woman was driving her 2006 Camry when, according to the suit, she was hit by another driver who ran a stop sign. The plaintiffs say the impact of the crash caused her foot to get caught between the brake and accelerator pedals. As this happened, they say she hit both pedals with her other foot, which caused the car to speed up and careen into oncoming traffic.

According to the plaintiffs, the accident could have been prevented if the car had an override system that automatically slows the vehicle when both the brake and gas pedals are pressed at the same time. The car maker is arguing that the woman mistakenly hit the gas pedal instead of the brake. They claim that she was confused because she was suffering the effects of low blood sugar.

The unintended acceleration problems, which, according to CTV News, Toyota has blamed on everything from driver error to stuck accelerators to floor mats that slipped out of place, prompted a recall of over ten million Toyotas around the world in 2009 and 2010. The economic loss settlement the auto giant reached with consumers has been estimated at $1.63 billion.

As noted, this is just the first of the individual wrongful death cases against Toyota to go to trial. The company will likely be paying out more money in upcoming years. This is why car makers are increasingly becoming proactive in recalling vehicles at even the hint of a potential problem. In a nation where we depend upon our cars on a daily basis, we get behind the wheel and literally put our lives in the hands of a multi-ton machine. We depend upon it to function properly, and have every right to hold automakers responsible when a malfunction results in injury or worse.

Source: Automotive News, "Toyota wrongful death suit winding down in L.A. court" Edvard Pettersson, Sep. 30, 2013

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