A jury in California on Thursday found Toyota Motor Corp. not liable in one of the first wrongful death lawsuits to go to trial in the United States over alleged defects that caused some vehicles to unexpectedly accelerate.
The closely watched case was brought by the husband and son of Noriko Uno, a 66-year old woman killed in a 2009 car crash involving a 2006 Toyota Camry.
It is among hundreds of similar lawsuits facing Toyota over acceleration issues, which prompted the automaker to recall millions of vehicles since 2009.
Uno's vehicle was not subject to the acceleration-related recalls.
According to their lawsuit, Uno's Camry was struck by another vehicle, causing it to speed out of control down a busy California road until it hit a tree, killing Uno.
Her family accused the automaker of failing to install brake-override systems that could have stopped out-of-control acceleration in vehicles sold in the U.S.
The case is the first to go to trial in California over acceleration issues.
"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," a Toyota spokeswoman said in a statement.
A lawyer for the family of Noriko Uno could not be immediately reached for comment.
According to a recent regulatory filing from Toyota, around 200 proposed class actions and more than 500 individual cases have been filed against the company since February 2009 over the alleged acceleration issues.
This week, a federal judge in California ruled that Toyota must face a trial over claims that it failed to warn the public about design defects that caused certain vehicles to accelerate unintentionally.
That case was brought by the estate of Ida St. John, who said in 2009 that her 2005 Camry sped out of control and hit a school building. She died after giving that testimony, but the lawsuit does not claim that her death was caused by the crash.
The trial, slated to begin November 5, will be one of the first of the many federal lawsuits focusing on the Toyota acceleration issues.
The first federal sudden-acceleration case to go to trial ended with a win for Toyota in 2011, in a lawsuit brought by a doctor who worked in Brooklyn.
First published October 11 2013, 4:39 AM