A jury in Anderson County, South Carolina, awarded $12 million to the family of Lacee Dial. Dial was killed 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 17-year-old was trapped for approximately two hours in the vehicle before she died from her injuries.
“This verdict reminds companies that they will be held responsible for defective products that kill people,” said Beasley Allen Atlanta Managing Attorney and plaintiffs’ counsel Chris Glover. “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.”
The Toyota 4Runner had a serious manufacturing defect that caused the rear axles to crack and ultimately fail during everyday driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s records show that 31 incidents of rear axle fracture in the vehicles were reported prior to the manufacture of Lacee’s 4Runner. The records also show that over a 24-year period, between June 1987 and July 2011, 60 incidents occurred.
There was overwhelming evidence during the trial that the axle failed and caused Lacee’s death. The physical evidence on the roadway and the vehicle confirmed an eyewitness account from a motorist who saw the rear axle fail while Lacee was traveling down the road. Further, litigation testing done by Toyota, meant to defend the claim, 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, and 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.