Toyota Settles Lawsuit Over Fatal Crash

Following months of massive recalls, investigations, allegations, and legal action, beleaguered Toyota Motor Corporation just settled a lawsuit with the relatives of four family members who were killed in an accident in San Diego said Bloomberg News.

The fatal crash involved California Highway Patrol trooper Mark Saylor (45); his wife, Cleofe (45); Mahala, their 13-year-old daughter; and Chris Lastrella (38), their brother-in-law; all four perished, said Detroit News previously.

Details of the chilling accident that prompted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to investigate the crash include the 2009 Lexus plummeting over an embankment and bursting into flames. The family was able to contact a 911 operator, saying they were unable to stop the ES 350; Lastrella advised the operator that the Lexus had no brakes. Most poignantly, the 911 tape, made public earlier this year, included the family asking one another to pray at the recording’s end, just before their deaths, said Detroit News.

The accident led to Toyota’s recall of vehicles over concerns of sudden acceleration, said Bloomberg News.

“Through mutual respect and cooperation we were able to resolve this matter without the need for litigation,” Toyota said via email, quoted Bloomberg News, which noted that Toyota did not disclose settlement terms.

Earlier this year, Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota, apologized to the family in an emotional statement to Congress saying, “Especially, I would like to extend my condolences to the members of the Saylor family, for the accident in San Diego…. I would like to send my prayers again, and I will do everything in my power to ensure that such a tragedy never happens again,” quoted Bloomberg.

According to the NHTSA this May, it is likely that Toyota vehicles have been involved in about 90 deaths associated with unintended acceleration accidents since 2000.

Since last November, Toyota has recalled about 8.5 million vehicles worldwide to resolve floor-mat interference and sticking pedal problems that may lead to incidents of unintended acceleration. Some vehicles are subject to both recalls. Most recently, 1.13 million Corolla and Matrix cars were recalled for what U.S. regulators described as a problem that could cause stalling “at any speed without warning,” quoted Bloomberg News previously.

Earlier this year, Toyota agreed to pay a record $16.375 million fine levied by the NHTSA for concealing information related to a January recall of 2.3 million vehicles for sticky accelerator pedals. The company also faces more than 200 lawsuits resulting from the sticky accelerator and floor mat recalls. Toyota also faces two investigations; one involving a federal grand jury probe into steering-related defects in its vehicles, and possibly how it handled a 2005 recall.

Toyota previously blamed the acceleration problems on driver error, but consumer advocates and plaintiffs’ attorneys have long alleged that they are the result of a defect in the vehicles’ electronic throttle control system.

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