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Toyota Settles Lawsuits by 30 States Over Handling of Unintended Acceleration Claims

By March 6, 2013July 17th, 2019Auto Accidents, Product Liability

As a southern Illinois car accident attorney, I was pleased to see a new development in the ongoing litigation over unintended acceleration in Toyota and Lexus vehicles. As the Associated Press reported in February, Toyota agreed to pay $29 million to settle lawsuits from 30 state attorneys general who claim the manufacturer failed to warn customers about the problem promptly. The states participating, which include Illinois but not Missouri, will each get a part of the settlement money. Perhaps more importantly for drivers, Toyota also agreed to set aside $5 million as restitution for customers’ recall-related costs, take certain steps to make vehicle information easier to find, and abide by certain safety disclosure rules. The settlement does not affect lawsuits filed by individual plaintiffs and families, who may still be able to win a verdict or settlement.
The unintended acceleration problem became apparent late in the past decade, when reports started surfacing of vehicles seemingly accelerating on their own. One early case involved an off-duty police officer in San Diego, who had a family member call for help while he attempted to avoid hurting other drivers. That case ended in tragedy when the entire family was killed. Toyota ultimately ended up recalling millions of vehicles in 2009 and 2010, attributing the problems to “sticky” gas pedals and floor mats that could entrap them. The states involved in this settlement were not suing over the defects themselves, but about Toyota’s failure to adequately disclose the issues to consumers. For the same reason, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration fined the automaker in December. Many consumers are still pursuing lawsuits over crashes they believe were caused by the defects.
In the settlement with the states, Toyota made numerous concessions that will benefit consumers. These include steps to make consumer information more available, such as posting owners’ manuals online, expanding its safety issue response teams, and creating a database where customers can look up their cars’ Vehicle Identification Numbers to look for recalls. The settlement also requires Toyota to set aside $5 million to pay restitution for replacement transportation related to the recalls. And it agreed to several new rules intended to keep consumers informed, including a requirement to inform prospective buyers about any safety defects and assure them the defects are fixed; a requirement to tell the truth about why it asks owners to bring their cars in for repair; and a prohibition on selling “lemons” as certified used vehicles.
I’m very pleased by this list of consumer-friendly settlement terms, as a Missouri auto product defect lawyer. Though the article doesn’t say this, these settlement terms are undoubtedly designed to solve problems the states have encountered with Toyota’s handling of the recall. As a result, the settlement will benefit consumers right away, by making them better informed about the safety of their own vehicles, their neighbors’ vehicles and the vehicles they might want to purchase. However, the settlement does not do anything to benefit victims of unintended acceleration accidents, who must file their own lawsuits if they want Toyota to compensate them for their personal and financial losses. As a St. Louis product liability attorney, I offer free consultations to anyone with this kind of potential claim.

If you believe a flaw in a car, car part or other consumer product seriously injured you, don’t wait to call Carey, Danis & Lowe for help. You can send us a message online or call 1-877-678-3400.
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