By Amanda Bronstad
Toyota has won the first bellwether trial over sudden acceleration defects after a Los Angeles jury found no design defects caused a 2006 Camry to suddenly accelerate, killing its 66-year-old driver.
The jury, which began deliberating last week after two months of testimony in the case of Noriko Uno, who died in the 2009 accident, announced its verdict late Thursday. According to a courtroom video recording of the verdict by Courtroom View Network, the jury found fault on the part of another driver whose 2003 Lexus struck Uno just before her car began accelerating down a residential road in Upland, Calif. The jury awarded $10 million in noneconomic damages to Uno's husband and son based on the negligence of Olga Bello, the other driver.
Toyota Motor Corp. immediately expressed sympathy for Uno's family and friends.
"Regarding the verdict, we are gratified that the jury concluded the design of the 2006 Camry did not contribute to this unfortunate accident, affirming the same conclusion we reached after more than three years of careful investigation – that there was nothing wrong with the vehicle at issue in this case," wrote Toyota spokeswoman Carly Schaffner. "As an important bellwether in these consolidated state proceedings, we believe this verdict sets a significant benchmark by helping further confirm that Toyota vehicles are safe with or without brake override."
Garo Mardirossian, of Mardirossian & Associates in Los Angeles, who represents Uno's husband and son, did not respond to a request for comment, nor did Bello's attorney, John Duffy, of Gray Duffy in Encino, Calif.
The trial represents the first bellwether among hundreds of lawsuits against Toyota over sudden acceleration problems in its vehicles.