OKLAHOMA CITY – A jury found that Toyota Motor is liable for a 2007 crash that left one woman dead and another seriously injured after a Camry suddenly accelerated.
The Oklahoma City jury awarded $3 million to Jean Bookout and the family of Barbara Schwarz. The verdict was handed down late Thursday, marking the first time that a jury was convinced by arguments that malfunctioning electronics caused a Toyota vehicle to speed up without the driver’s involvement, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Mrs. Bookout was driving a 2005 Camry when it surged through an intersection and slammed into an embankment. Mrs. Bookout was 76 at the time of the crash. The Beasley Allen attorneys who represented Mrs. Bookout and the family of Barbara Schwarz said the vehicle accelerated unexpectedly because of a defect in the car’s electronic throttle-control system. Beasley Allen attorney Cole Portis said that Toyota knew about the problems, but concealed that information from the public.
“We believe Toyota’s conduct from the time the electronic throttle-control system was developed has been shameful,” Mr. Portis told jurors. “It’s a big deal, because if it doesn’t work right, people get killed.”
Toyota lawyer Randolph Bibb Jr. argued that “Sometimes people make mistakes while driving their cars.” Mr. Bibb also stated that “After taking the wrong exit toward an unfamiliar road, 76-year-old Jean Bookout made a mistake in the operation of her 2005 Camry.” He suggested that she may have pressed the accelerator instead of the brake as she left the highway.
Beasley Allen attorney Jere Beasley said in his opening statements that “Toyota had known since as far back as 2004 that they had a serious problem with sudden acceleration. We’re talking about an automobile accident that occurred not because of anything the driver did or did not do.”
Previously, Toyota agreed to a more than $1 billion settlement in 2012 to resolve hundreds of lawsuits after it recalled millions of vehicles because of sudden acceleration problems. However, that settlement did not include those suing over wrongful death and injury.
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