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First Toyota sudden-acceleration trial set to begin
“If the plaintiff succeeds in convincing a jury it wasn’t human error, that it was attributed to the car, I think they have a strong case,” said Gregory Keating, a law professor at the University of Southern California. “Jurors, as drivers, are likely to believe strongly that cars shouldn’t become uncontrollable in this way.”
It was nearly four years ago that Uno, who was out grocery shopping and depositing receipts from the restaurant, died after her car went onto a median, struck a telephone pole and then hit a large tree. Witnesses told police they saw Uno swerve to avoid hitting an oncoming truck, according to the lawsuit.
Mr. Mardirossian said that Uno was a cautious driver and that neither floor mats nor driver error was to blame. He said witnesses heard the Camry engine racing and saw brake lights going on and off. Pulling the handbrake had “zero effect,” Mr. Mardirossian said.
“Imagine her strapped into her Toyota Camry driving 100 mph knowing the next move would be fatal,” he said. “She saved many lives by veering off into that center median knowing that death was near.”
That same day — Aug. 28, 2009 — off-duty California Highway Patrol Officer Mark Saylor and three family members were killed on a suburban San Diego freeway when their 2009 Lexus ES 350 reached speeds of more than 120 mph, struck a sport utility vehicle, launched off an embankment, rolled several times and burst into flames. A 911 call captured Saylor’s brother-in-law telling the others to pray before the car crashed.
Toyota, which makes the luxury Lexus brand, agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by the victims’ family for $10 million. An inquiry into the crash led to recalls of millions of Toyota vehicles. Investigators said a wrong-size floor mat trapped the accelerator and caused the accident.
The Uno family lawsuit, which claims product liability and negligence, seeks general and punitive damages. Mr. Mardirossian said Uno’s relatives want to have a jury decide that the crash was not her fault.
“They want to make sure to get their loved one’s name cleared,” he said.
By Donald Lambro
Growth spikes are little more than trend-free anomalies
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