By Amanda Bronstad
Toyota Motor Corp. lost the second major verdict over sudden acceleration defects on Thursday after an Oklahoma state jury awarded $3 million to an injured driver and the family of a passenger who was killed when their 2005 Camry accelerated at a highway exit ramp, according to Bloomberg.
The case, filed in Oklahoma County, Okla., District Court, is the first in which evidence of defects in the electronic throttle control system were responsible for sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles.
A jury in Los Angeles found on Oct. 10 that Toyota’s failure to install a brake override system did not contribute to an accident that killed Noriko Uno in 2009. That jury issued a $10 million verdict against the driver of another vehicle that hit Uno’s 2006 Camry, which accelerated down a residential street and into a tree.
The lead plaintiffs' firm in the Oklahoma case, Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles in Montgomery, Ala., confirmed the compensatory damages award against Toyota via email and indicated that the jury would consider punitive damages on Oct. 25. A Toyota spokeswoman did not return a call for comment.
The Oklahoma case was filed by Jean Bookout, who suffered internal bleeding and a broken ankle from the crash six years ago. Her friend, Barbara Schwartz, who was in the front seat, was killed. Trial began earlier this month.
The case is an outlier in that it is not part of a coordinated proceeding, and lawyers have not selected it as a bellwether trial, defined as one whose outcome could guide the resolution of other cases against Toyota.
But the trial is the second significant one against Toyota this year. Toyota faces a third trial – the first bellwether in the multidistrict litigation pending in federal court in Santa Ana, Calif. – on Nov. 5.
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