Several issues with floor mats becoming stuck under the accelerator pedal have left Toyota open to possible class action and individual lawsuits. It is claimed that Toyota knew that there was a problem with the mats more than two years ago.
In a New York Times article dated October 1, 2009, a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation was identified as early as 2007, due to reports that 2007 Lexus ES 350 owners were experiencing problems with unexplained, sudden acceleration.
In 2007, Troy Johnson was killed when his car was rear-ended by a Toyota Camry when the owner lost control of the car. Court reports show the Camry was traveling at nearly 125 miles an hour when it hit the Honda. Johnson’s wife successfully sued Toyota, wining an undisclosed amount of damages. The crux of the case involved the liability of Toyota and the clearing of the driver, who survived the crash, from any personal liability.
Since this time, Johnson’s wife has repeatedly urged Toyota to act to prevent further deaths from this defect, and, to date, Toyota has declined to comment on the case. Much has been heard in the press about this issue with customers who have experienced the issue becoming increasingly vocal in an effort to prevent more deaths from the problem.
The investigation into cases involving the floor mats is still open and those involved in Toyota floor mat-related accidents are hopeful that upcoming results will bring about closure.
Chris Chan Park and his friend, Seong Bae Choi, two San Francisco residents, are seeking class action status for their suit against Toyota for lack of proper action on vehicles made since 2001 with defects leading to uncontrollable acceleration. The pair claims that between their two Toyotas, a 2004 Camry and a 2008 FJ Cruiser, they have experienced many incidents of the accelerator pedal glitch, causing them great concern. The results may set legal precedents to be applied to other cases not yet tried in court.
Approximately 2,000 incidents involving issues with increased acceleration due to floor mats in Toyota vehicles have been reported. Another issue under examination during these cases is a possible programming glitch that causes accelerators to malfunction. Speculation in the press indicates Toyota may receive official criticism about the way they handled early reports of problems.
At least 300 cases regarding new evidence relating to extreme amounts of unexplained acceleration in Toyota cars have been reopened. There is a possibility evidence may have been destroyed by Toyota staff, in an attempt to hide facts about car defects and communications issued to dealerships that were concerned following customer reports of strange acceleration problems.
Roughly 3.8 million vehicles are involved in the recall of Toyota cars. These vehicles will all be checked for floor mat defects, though it is unclear whether other faults, such as throttle design and computer programming glitches will also be repaired, since there is some debate over how much these other problems are to blame for the accidents.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has conducted six different investigations about runaway Toyotas since 2007.
With Toyota’s ex-lawyer suing the company on behalf of plaintiffs who have received injuries or sustained losses from the company’s products, it seems Toyota may be devoting much time and money to litigation and attending court proceedings in the coming years. There is a lot of information in the public domain that suggests any lawsuits joined against the company will meet with some success, since there are already several cases on record where the victims have won compensation. This typically results in the filing of additional lawsuits, once a few ground-breaking cases have proved successful.