The family of a Marine who served two tours of combat duty in Iraq only to be killed in Knoxville, Tennessee, when his Toyota Yaris suddenly sped out of control, is suing the carmaker. The new lawsuit is one of the latest cases to join the multi-district litigation involving sudden, unintended acceleration in Toyota and Lexus cars, which have been consolidated in a Santa Ana, California, federal court under Judge James Selna.
The 23-year-old Marine was working and attending college in Knoxville. On the morning of December 23, 2010, he was on his way to work to pick up a paycheck when his 2008 Yaris allegedly accelerated unintentionally, causing the victim to lose control of the vehicle. According to witnesses, the car sped west on Interstate 640 in Knoxville, crossed two traffic lanes to the right, and ran off the road before striking a sign.
The victim was wearing his seatbelt but did not survive the crash. Nobody else was injured.
According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, the lawsuit asserts the Toyota’s electronic throttle system caused the crash, citing internal Toyota communications and a number of other reports of Toyota-made cars and trucks unexpectedly accelerating out of control. The complaint also says that Toyota could have fixed the sudden acceleration problem by installing a brake override system, which is standard in its European models.
“Toyota ultimately declined to install this important safety feature in any of its vehicles at that time,” the lawsuit claims.
In 2009 and 2010, Toyota recalled more than 8 million vehicles for flaws that could potentially cause them to accelerate without warning. Although the carmaker blames the problem on faulty driver-side floor mats and sticking gas pedals, some safety experts and plaintiff’s lawyers are convinced the problem stems from a glitch in the vehicles’ electronic controls.
The first bellwether trial, involving a case of sudden unintended acceleration in Oklahoma, is scheduled to start on February 19, 2013. Another case of Toyota’s choosing is expected to begin sometime in November 2013.