Toyota settles 'bellwether' US wrongful-death suit


Japanese automaker Toyota has settled a wrongful-death lawsuit in the United States over sudden, unintended acceleration that allegedly killed two people in Utah in 2010.

“We are satisfied that both parties reached a mutually acceptable agreement to settle this case,” Toyota Motor Corp said in a statement late Thursday.

A Toyota spokeswoman, Celeste Migliore, told AFP it was the first “bellwether” settlement among hundreds of cases pending in a federal court in California.

Toyota did not reveal financial details of the settlement, but said in a statement it “will have a number of other opportunities to defend our product at trial… and other legal venues.”

“We would emphasize that at no time has anyone put forth any reliable scientific evidence of an alleged electronic defect in our vehicles that could cause unintended acceleration,” it said.

The settled case involved a man and woman in the US state of Utah killed when the Toyota Camry they were traveling in slammed into a wall.

Critics have argued that Toyota’s accelerator technology was behind several deadly accidents.

But Japan’s biggest automaker said its accelerator technology was confirmed as safe.

“We sympathize with anyone in an accident involving one of our vehicles; however, we continue to stand fully behind the safety and integrity of Toyota’s Electronic Throttle Control System, which multiple independent evaluations have confirmed as safe,” the statement said.

The acceleration problem prompted a recall of millions of Toyota vehicles in 2009-2010, severely damaging the carmaker’s once-sterling reputation.

Toyota has argued at least in some cases that the problems involved floor mats that came loose and trapped the accelerator pedal.

Last year, Toyota added two models to 2009-2010 recalls citing the floor mat problem.

Toyota’s mishandling of its vehicle problems led to a US congressional probe, more than $50 million in fines from US regulators and public apologies by its chief.

In December, the automaker announced an agreement to pay about $1.1 billion to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by US vehicle owners who said the value of their cars had fallen due to the recalls.

It also agreed to pay a record $17.35 million fine for failing to promptly notify US authorities that floor mats could also be trapped under the accelerators of 2010 Lexus models.

In November Toyota agreed to pay $25.5 million to settle claims from shareholders who lost money after its stock price plummeted in the wake of the recalls.

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