- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Jury: Toyota must pay $11M to victims of fatal crash

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A federal jury found that Toyota Motor Corp. must pay nearly $11 million to victims of a fatal 2006 crash after deciding Tuesday that a design flaw in the 1996 Camry was partly to blame for the Minnesota wreck.

Jurors said the company was 60 percent to blame for the accident, which left three people dead and two seriously injured. But they also found that Koua Fong Lee, who has long insisted he tried to stop his car before it slammed into another vehicle, was 40 percent to blame.

Lee and his family sued the company, along with those injured in the crash and relatives of those killed, in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis. The lawsuit alleged the crash was caused by an acceleration defect in Lee’s vehicle, but Toyota argued there was no design defect and that Lee was negligent.

“No amount of money… will bring my life back, my life is not the same anymore,” Lee said after the verdict, adding that he wanted the victims and their families to know: “I tried everything I could to stop my car.”

Toyota released a statement saying the company respects the jury’s decision but believes the evidence clearly showed that the vehicle wasn’t the cause of the accident. The company said it will study the record and consider its legal options going forward.

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Gunman sought after shootout with Twin Cities police

ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. (AP) - Authorities are searching for a gunman involved in a shootout with police that led to a lockdown at a suburban Twin Cities grocery store.

Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek says authorities are searching for 41-year-old David Michael Winters. Stanek says Winters may be wounded and should be considered armed and dangerous.

Stanek says police were called about a man with a gun outside a St. Louis Park business around 9:45 a.m. Tuesday. A man was in a vehicle in the parking lot, and when officers arrived, shots were fired.

The suspect fled in a green Honda Civic and was seen entering Byerly’s in St. Louis Park. The store was put on lockdown, and employees were escorted to waiting buses.

But the store was cleared, and the suspect was not found.

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Dayton bested rival in lower-spending governor’s race

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota’s campaign for governor last year was a bargain compared to the spending in the same race four years earlier, according to financial reports released Tuesday.

Final figures from the 2014 campaign show that Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton spent about $3 million last year toward his re-election, while Republican nominee Jeff Johnson spent $2.4 million. Three other Republican hopefuls combined to spend about $2 million.

In the 2010 governor race, which Dayton also won, he and the Republican nominee spent a combined $7.5 million, while a third-party candidate spent $1.3 million. The Democratic primary that year also was more expensive, with two candidates spending a total of $7 million in losing efforts.

Spending by outside groups also fell in the 2014 race. The Democratic-aligned Alliance for a Better Minnesota, for example, spent $5.7 million on 2010’s governor’s race, but only $3 million last year. However, outside groups shifted their focus from the governor to House races, which ended up flipping control of the chamber to Republicans.

The figures were published through reports filed by candidates, political parties and independent groups involved in races for state office.

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Report: Toughen study abroad safety reporting requirements

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota colleges should be required to disclose when their students are victims of sexual assaults or other crimes while studying abroad, a state report said.

The Office of Higher Education recommends expanding a law passed last year that requires postsecondary institutions to report annually whether any of their students got sick or died on study abroad trips. It says including sexual assaults, robberies and other incidents in those disclosures will better inform students and parents.

The office expects to have the first wave of data from colleges and universities available to the public by January. The Secretary of State’s office will also report the best available information on crimes committed against students studying abroad.

Maren Gelle Henderson, a legislative liaison for the higher education office, said it may be best to wait for that first round of data before changing the law.

American students are studying abroad at more than three times the rate they did 20 years ago, according to the Institute of International Education. About 9,000 enrolled in study abroad programs through Minnesota colleges and universities in the 2012-2013 school year.

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