Product Liability

Possible sudden acceleration in Toyota Camry kills California woman

toyota cars 435x308 Possible sudden acceleration in Toyota Camry kills California womanWHITTIER, Calif. – A 26-year-old woman is dead after being struck by a 2012 Toyota Camry that suddenly accelerated as the driver was backing out of a beauty salon parking space.

According to the Whittier Daily News, Rosalinda “Rosie” Manzanares was riding her bicycle when she passed behind the Camry, driven by Angelica Cuevas, 78, of Whittier. Manzanares was on her way to exchange a bracelet that she had bought and borrowed the bike from her father.

According to a California Highway Patrol news release, Ms. Cuevas stopped her Camry halfway out of the parking space. Then, “As Ms. Manzanares was riding directly behind Mrs. Cuevas’ vehicle, Mrs. Cuevas rapidly accelerated her vehicle for unknown reasons.”

“If the investigation, upon its completion, warrants it, we will recommend to the District Attorney’s Office to file charges against Mrs. Cuevas,” CHP officer Al Perez told the Whittier Daily News.

Should Mrs. Cuevas be prosecuted, it wouldn’t be the first time a Toyota driver has found him or herself behind bars for a sudden unintended acceleration incident that may have been beyond their ability to stop. We’ve written extensively about a young Minnesota father who was imprisoned after his 1996 Camry sped out of control and crashed, killing three people. Mr. Lee was subsequently released and all charges dropped after evidence was discovered that his vehicle did indeed speed out of control as he claimed all along.

Similarly, in 2010, prosecutors dismissed vehicular manslaughter charges against a Torrance, California woman whose Lexus RX330 accelerated violently and crashed, killing a passenger in the car. According to a surviving passenger, the woman repeatedly screamed “no brakes!” as the car careened

In 2009, Guadalupe Gomez of San Jose, California, was released from charges of vehicular manslaughter and a wrongful death lawsuit after Toyota’s sudden acceleration defects came to light. Gomez’s 2007 Camry sped out of control on Interstate 280 in San Jose and collided with a Honda Accord. Troy Edwin Johnson, a 39-year-old father of 5, burned to death in that accident.

According to Safety Research & Strategies, Inc. (SRS), a firm that has been closely monitoring Toyota’s sudden unintended acceleration debacle, which led to record recalls and fines, the Whittier incident “appears to have the key ingredients of a Toyota Unintended Acceleration parking lot incident.”

According to SRS, the numerous reports of sudden parking lot surges involving Toyota and Lexus vehicles didn’t warrant the attention of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or NASA, which supposedly conducted a scientific and thorough analysis of Toyota vehicles to determine whether an electronic glitch could be behind sudden unintended acceleration events. NHTSA even noted the frequency of “stationary and low speed” incidents occurring during “parking lot entry and exit” in its Technical Assessment of Toyota Electronic Throttle (ETC) Systems,” yet these events were not addressed in the commissioned study conducted by NASA.

According to NHTSA’s Technical Assessment, “Many of the parking maneuver narratives reported incidents characterized by high engine power either after the driver applied the brake or immediately after shifting the transmission,” NHTSA’s report mentions.

SRS also cites a few recent complaints reported to NHTSA involving 2011 and 2012 Camrys that sound remarkably similar to the Whittier incident:

The owner of a 2011 Camry wrote, “Pulling in to ballgame last night on the grassy area to park car. Foot on the brake not on the gas, car accelerated so hard it threw my head back against the head rest, thank God there were no children in front of me.”

The driver of a 2012 Camry reported, “I enter into a parking lot behind a cluster of homes, a car was behind me and the driver indicated that I was going at less than 3-5 miles per hour. I park the car and all of the sudden the car accelerated, went over the parking bump and over a wood safety wall, over some bushes and landed 2 feet down, damaging the homes and a couple of heating units. I pressed the brake but the car kept on accelerating. This car should not be in the market.”

“Then, there’s Tanya Spotts, owner of a 2011 Lexus ES350,” SRS writes. “Spotts was pulling into a second-floor space in parking garage in Reston Town Center, with her foot on the brake. With about three feet to go before coming to a complete stop, her vehicle surged and slammed into the concrete wall in front of her. Spotts looked down and saw her foot firmly on the brake. In fact, she was braking so hard that she sprained and bruised her foot, requiring treatment.”

Sources:

Whittier Daily News

Safety Research & Strategies Inc.