Toyota hails car crash court win
A US jury has cleared Toyota over a 2005 crash that the driver blamed on the floor mat or the electronic throttle, in the first case to go to trial since the car giant recalled millions of its vehicles.
After 45 minutes of deliberation, the jury in Central Islip, New York, found Toyota was not liable for the Scion's floor mat or for the absence of a system that allows the brake to override the accelerator when both were pressed.
The car driver, 59-year-old Long Island doctor Amir Sitafalwala, had argued that defects in the electronic throttle system or the floor mats caused him to suddenly accelerate and crash into a tree. US Magistrate Judge Thomas Boyle ruled out evidence about the car's electronics earlier this week.
Mr Sitafalwala's 2008 lawsuit was the first to go to trial since Toyota recalled millions of vehicles beginning in 2009.
In a statement, Toyota called the verdict an "early indicator of the strength of the legal theories behind unintended acceleration claims" against the Japanese company. "We believe that this case sets an important benchmark for unintended acceleration litigation against Toyota across this country," the statement said.
Toyota has recalled more than 14 million vehicles globally to fix accelerator pedals and other safety problems, including more than two million recalled in February to address accelerator pedals that could become trapped in floor mats or jammed in driver's-side carpeting.
The company paid the US government a record £30.5 million in fines for its handling of three recalls.
US regulators said earlier this month that electronic flaws were not to blame for reports of sudden unintended acceleration.
Hundreds of claims from around the US related to the recalls have been consolidated under one judge in a US District Court in California.
In December, Toyota agreed to pay £6.2 million to the family of four people killed in a runaway Lexus crash in California that led to the recalls. Investigators determined that a wrong-size floor mat trapped the accelerator and caused the August 2009 crash.