Toyota settles wrongful death lawsuit involving sudden acceleration
LOS ANGELES—Toyota Motor Corp. has settled what was to be the first in a group of hundreds of pending wrongful death and injury lawsuits involving sudden unintended acceleration by Toyota vehicles.
Toyota reached the agreement in the case brought by the family of Paul Van Alfen and Charlene Jones Lloyd, said company spokeswoman Celeste Migliore. They were killed when their Toyota Camry slammed into a wall in Utah in 2010.
Migliore would not disclose the financial terms, and plaintiffs’ lawyer Robert Krause did not immediately reply to a phone message.
The remaining lawsuits are not affected by the settlement, Migliore said.
Toyota issued a statement saying the company and its lawyers may decide to settle select cases, but ‘‘we will have a number of other opportunities to defend our product at trial.”
“We sympathize with anyone in an accident involving one of our vehicles,’’ the statement said, ‘‘however we continue to stand fully behind the safety and integrity of Toyota’s Electronic Throttle Control System, which multiple independent evaluations have confirmed as safe.’’
Last month Toyota agreed to a settlement worth more than $ 1 billion to resolve hundreds of lawsuits claiming economic losses suffered by Toyota owners when the Japanese automaker recalled millions of vehicles. Hundreds more lawsuits involving wrongful death and injury remained.
The Van Alfen case was to be the first of those tried, and to serve as a bellwether for the rest. It had been set to go to trial in February. A second bellwether case is scheduled for May.
Toyota settled a previous wrongful death lawsuit for $ 10 million in 2010 before the current cases were consolidated in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana.
In the accident that spawned the newly settled case, Van Alfen was driving the Camry on Interstate 80 near Wendover, Utah, on Nov. 5, 2010, when it suddenly accelerated, investigators said.
Skid marks showed that Van Alfen tried to stop the vehicle as it exited Interstate 80, police said. The car went through a stop sign at the bottom of the ramp and through an intersection before hitting the wall.
Van Alfen and Lloyd, his son’s fiancee, were killed. Van Alfen’s wife and son were injured.
The Utah Highway Patrol concluded based on statements from witnesses and the crash survivors that the gas pedal was stuck.
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