California jury deliberates on Toyota acceleration case

In the late 2000s, Toyota Motor Corp. came under heavy fire after drivers began experiencing what came to be called “uncontrollable acceleration,” that is, the sudden, unstoppable acceleration of their Toyota vehicles. Drivers reported that they were unable to stop their vehicles, even if they pressed the brake or pulled the emergency brake. The incidents resulted in a number of injuries and deaths.

Toyota, however, maintained that there was nothing wrong with their vehicles, and that the accidents were merely caused by driver error or by the gas pedal getting stuck under a floor mat. It’s a story they’ve stuck to, even as uncontrollable acceleration court cases begin to move into the final stages.

One such case currently being heard in a California courtroom may be what is called a “bellwether” case. Bellwether cases act as guides for future litigation; if the case is found in favor of the plaintiff, other, similar cases will also be ruled in favor of the plaintiff. If the defendant prevails, however, similar cases will also go their way.

The bellwether case at hand concerns a 66-year-old woman who was killed during an uncontrollable acceleration of her Toyota Camry. The family of the victim states that the vehicle suffered from some mechanical defect; Toyota claims it was user error. Closing arguments are expected to be completed this week; following that, the jury will deliberate.

If the jury finds that Toyota was responsible for the car accident, the motor company will likely be forced to pay compensation to the family of the victim. This is a common result in personal injury lawsuits, and indeed their main function: to repay victims for the losses they have suffered at the hands of a negligent party.

The decision would likely affect more than just one family, however: More than 80 similar cases have been filed in state courts nationwide.

Source: Kentucky.com, “Closing arguments in case against Toyota” No Author Given, Oct. 01, 2013