In late December 2012, Toyota Motor North America proposed settlement of multidistrict litigation pending in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The sweeping $1.1 billion settlement offer received preliminary approval by District Judge James V. Selna in Santa Ana.
On its website, Toyota refers to the settlement as means to resolve economic loss litigation. Toyota general counsel Christopher P. Reynolds noted the difficulty of the decision given the proven safety of its electronic throttle systems. Still, Toyota concludes it is in the best interests of its customers and the company to turn the page on this legacy issue.
A number of legal actions against Toyota remain pending. However, these words quietly put distance between Toyota and years of legal trouble with recalls and a damaged corporate reputation.
For many people across the United States, knowledge of the serious trouble Toyota vehicles had with sudden acceleration first arrived in the desperate words of a 911 call recorded in San Diego in August 2009.
We're in a Lexus ... we're going north on 125 and our accelerator is stuck. The 50-second tape records the last moments of driver Mark Saylor, his wife Cleofe, their 13 year-old daughter Mahala, and the brother of Ms. Saylor, Chris Lastrella. The Chula Vista family was driving a loaner Lexus while their car was repaired.
We're going 120! Mission Gorge! We're in trouble – we can't – there's no brakes, Mission Gorge . . . end freeway half mile . . . hold on, pray . . . The recording ended with a scream as the Lexus struck a Ford Explorer, jumped a curb, slammed through a fence and went airborne over San Diego River basin. Rolling several times on impact, the Lexus erupted in flames, killing all four passengers.
Notoriety from the crash ignited national debate and concern over the sudden acceleration of Toyota vehicles. A lawsuit filed by the family was settled by Toyota in September 2010.
In the 2012 settlement, Toyota agreed to reimburse owners affected by previous recalls, install brake override systems on select models, provide free repair and customer service to affected owners, and contribute to a fund for automotive research. Money and quiet words may turn the page for Toyota, but not for those who loved and lost the Saylor family. A skilled personal injury lawyer can help the survivors pursue fair compensation for their loss.