Toyota To Settle Unintended Acceleration Lawsuits

Toyota Motors just agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit concerning problems with unintended acceleration.

The proposed settlement—one of the largest of its kind at $1 billion—was filed in a Federal District Court in California. The agreement is pending approval by Judge James V. Selna, said The New York Times.

Under the agreement, the car maker would make cash payments for the loss of value on vehicles affected by a number of related recalls and also install special safety features on some 3.2 million cars, said The New York Times. Meanwhile, there are a number of personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits pending against the car giant, as well as an unfair business practice case brought by the attorneys general of 28 states.

The class-action—the largest legal action related to economic losses by vehicle owners—was filed in 2010 after a number of reports were made to federal regulators concerning unintended acceleration issues with Toyota vehicles, The New York Times explained. As we’ve mentioned, Toyota recalled millions of vehicles for unintended acceleration issues and later announced it was recalling 2.17 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles sold in the U.S. for flaws that could jam gas pedals, leading to instances of unintended acceleration. Worldwide, 14 million Toyota vehicles have been recalled over unintended acceleration issues.

The class-action case contended that Toyota’s electronics systems were faulty; however, an investigation led government officials to conclude in 2011 that no evidence existed indicating that electronic issues were associated with the acceleration problems, said The New York Times. Meanwhile, a later review conducted by the National Academy of Sciences discovered that federal regulators did not have the expertise needed to monitor electronic controls in automobiles.

Although Toyota argues that acceleration issues generally have to do with driver error, the car maker has been fined over $60 million by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for neglecting to advise regulators of internal data concerning sudden acceleration, The New York Times noted.

Under the proposed settlement, Toyota agreed to create a fund of $250 million to pay claims to former owners of cars impacted by acceleration recalls and install brake override systems on cars where pedals could either stick or become trapped in car mats, said The New York Times. Toyota said it had installed the systems on 2.6 million vehicles; however, a remaining 550,000 cars have not yet been installed with the equipment. The proposed settlement also creates a customer support program for the more than 16 million Toyota owners; all are eligible for free repairs on specific parts for the next decade. Also, Toyota will contribute $30 million to fund automotive safety research associated with driver behavior and unintended acceleration, The New York Times noted.

As we’ve previously written, in addition to a reported injury to a pedestrian in a residential driveway involving a Ford vehicle, the NHTSA documented 20 fatalities as far back as 1980 over sudden acceleration claims. Another 51 deaths have been connected to Toyota and another 12 to Chrysler Group LLC over sudden acceleration allegations.

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