A jury in Anderson County, South Carolina, awarded $12 million to the family of Lacee Dial. Dial passed away Sept. 15, 2012, when the rear axle of her 1999 Toyota 4Runner fractured, causing the vehicle to roll over and collide with a utility pole. The wreck trapped the 17-year-old in the vehicle for approximately two hours before she died from her injuries.
“This verdict reminds companies that they will be held responsible for defective products that kill people. The defendants knew the vehicle that killed our clients’ daughter was unreasonably dangerous, yet they refused to take responsibility for Lacee’s needless death. This family faced one of the largest corporations in the world in a tough case. Toyota told them they would never take responsibility. This is why the jury system is so important. It’s the only place this family could get justice for their daughter.”
Beasley Allen Principal Ben Baker added:
“It’s always hard when a parent has to bury their child and no verdict can ever take away the pain. But when a company like Toyota shows nothing but reckless disregard for life and their products contribute to injuries and death, as was the case with Lacee, it is important to hold those bad actors accountable.”
Weak Rear Axles
The Toyota 4Runner had a serious manufacturing defect that caused the rear axles to crack and fail during everyday driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s records report 31 incidents of rear axle fracture prior to the production of Lacee’s 4Runner. The records also show that 60 incidents occurred over a 24-year period between June 1987 and July 2011.
There was overwhelming evidence during the trial that the axle failed and caused Lacee’s death. Evidence on the roadway and the vehicle confirmed a motorist’s eyewitness account. The motorist reported seeing the rear axle fail while Lacee was traveling down the road. Further, litigation testing done by Toyota, meant to defend the company, ultimately proved that the axle should have never failed in this crash.
The incident occurred as Lacee was driving to an interview for an internship with a local veterinarian. The high school senior enjoyed competitive barrel racing with her horse, Kidd. Her friends and family remember how she was always smiling.
The jury awarded $6 million for Dial’s pain and suffering and $6 million in damages for her parents. The case is Donald L. Dial, Personal Representative of Lacee Michaela Dial vs. Toyota Motor Corporation, et al, C.A. 2013-CP-04-01483 in the Court of Common Pleas of Anderson County, South Carolina.