Two Oklahoma Families Reach $1.5 Million Settlements with Toyota in Fatal Unintended Acceleration Crash in a Camry

An Oklahoma jury has awarded a $3 million verdict to two families after a 70-year-old woman died when the Toyota Camry in which she was a passenger accelerated suddenly and crashed into an embankment in 2007. The case is the first which Toyota has lost on a plaintiff’s claim of unintended acceleration in one of its Camry midsize automobiles, which have been accused several times in recent years for accelerating on their own without any actions by their drivers.

The settlement, which gives $1.5 million each to the victim’s family and to the family of the 82-year-old woman who was driving the 2005 Camry that day, was reported in an Oct. 25 story in The New York Times. Toyota had won three previous unintended acceleration cases elsewhere around the nation before the Oklahoma jury ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, according to the paper.

In this case, the victim, Barbara Schwarz, was in a car being driven by Jean Bookout, 82, who was severely injured when the car accelerated on its own and smashed into the embankment, the paper reported. The Oklahoma jury awarded the families of each other women $1.5 million in compensatory damages in connection with the crash.

“The jury found that Toyota had acted with ‘reckless disregard,’ despite reports of problems with its cars, and as a result was about to begin deliberations on punitive damages when the settlement was announced,” the story stated. Toyota agreed to a settlement before deliberations on punitive damages, which can be far higher, got very far.

The Camrys in question use an electronic throttle control, rather than a cable-operated throttle mechanism.

Toyota has recalled more than 11 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles due to concerns about unintended acceleration since 2009. Many of those reports resulted in loss of vehicle control, accidents, injuries and several fatalities. A recall in January 2010 for 2.3 million vehicles was related to sticking accelerator pedals on specific Toyota Division models. In the fall of 2009, about 4.2 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles were recalled in connection with similar concerns about sudden acceleration, but at that time the company said the problems appeared to come from apparent pedal entrapment by incorrect or out of place accessory floor mats.

In a story in The Los Angeles Times on Oct. 25, Toyota “denied any safety defects in its cars, arguing that many incidents of unintended acceleration stemmed from drivers who stepped on the gas instead of the brake.”

Those claims weren’t accepted by the Oklahoma jury, the paper reported. “But plaintiffs in the Oklahoma case successfully argued that Toyota’s electronic throttle system was flawed, causing the car to speed out of control.”

The recalls followed another alleged safety matter related to Toyota vehicles that occurred in September 2009.  In that case, the company  was sued by a former corporate attorney who alleged that Toyota illegally withheld critical information about hundreds of rollover crashes involving injuries and deaths. That case is still in its early stages.

These kinds of cases occur every day when innocent victims are hurt in vehicle accidents through no fault of their own due to the actions or indifference of others. That’s where having a legal team on your side that uncovers every fact to bolster your case and maximize your damage award is key.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured in a vehicle incident or accident anywhere in the United States. We represent the families of victims who die in such tragedies as well, to ensure that their families receive every penny of damages that they are eligible to receive.

Call MyPhillyLawyer at 215-227-2727 or toll-free at 1-(866) 352-4572 anytime and our experienced, compassionate, aggressive team of attorneys and support staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as we manage your case through the legal system.