R. Graham Esdale, a principal at Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, P.C., has been selected as one of the 2014-2015 Lawdragon 500 Leading Lawyers in America. Being a member of the Lawdragon 500 is one of the most elite honors in the law profession. Recipients of this honor are determined by a combination of editorial research by Lawdragon staff, submissions from law firms and an online nomination form.
Graham obtained his B.S. degree in Marketing from Auburn University before going to the University of Alabama School of Law. Graham was a leader in the investigation of claims of personal injury and death related to Toyota sudden unintended acceleration (SUA). Graham was one of the first attorneys in the country to file a lawsuit against Toyota alleging that sudden unintended acceleration caused a personal injury and wrongful death. In January of 2010, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. announced the suspension of manufacturing and sales of many of its bestselling models after a series of safety recalls involving millions of vehicles. The recalls involved both Toyota and Lexus vehicles, and mainly had to do with the problem of sudden unintended acceleration. Graham had been actively investigating SUA problems for about two years prior to the first recall, which happened in September 2009.
In October 2013, an Oklahoma City, Okla., jury in Bookout, et al v. Toyota found that electronic throttle defects were to blame for a 2007 crash that killed one woman and left another seriously injured. The jury awarded $1.5 million to the families of both women, who were riding in a 2005 Camry when it suddenly accelerated off an Oklahoma highway and careened into an embankment. Before the jury could deliberate on punitive damages, Toyota reached a separate confidential settlement with the families. The New York Times notes the verdict “most likely spurred Toyota to pursue a broad settlement of its remaining cases.” In March 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Toyota would pay fines of $1.2 billion to settle a four-year criminal investigation into its handling of sudden unintended acceleration defects in millions of its vehicles.
Graham was selected as a finalist for Public Justice’s 2014 Trial Lawyer of the Year, along with the other members of the trial team, for his work in the verdict against Toyota in Oklahoma. This award is given by Public Justice to the lawyer or trial team making the most outstanding contribution to the public through precedent-setting litigation in the last year. Graham also was named Beasley Allen’s 2014 Products Liability Section Lawyer of the Year.