A jury in Minneapolis has awarded $11.4 million to the plaintiffs of a lawsuit involved in a 2006 crash involving “unintended acceleration”, the phenomenon when a gas pedal gets stuck and causes the vehicle to suddenly accelerate. The crash involved a 1996 Toyota Camry that rear-ended an Oldsmobile after exiting a highway. The driver of the Oldsmobile and one passenger were instantly killed, and another passenger became a quadriplegic and died 18 months later. Two other passengers in the Oldsmobile were also injured.
Despite being adamant from the start that the vehicle was defective and the crash wasn’t his fault, Koua Fong Lee, the driver of the Toyota, was convicted of negligent homicide in 2008 and sentenced to eight years in prison. He was freed in 2010, after serving almost three years in prison. The judge ordered a new trial, but prosecutors decided to drop the charges.
In the civil case, the jury found that the driver of the Camry was 40% responsible for the accident, and found Toyota 60% responsible. The $11.4 million verdict was awarded to both families, with the Toyota Camry driver awarded $1.25 million. Due to his 40% responsibility, his award will be reduced to $750,000.
Toyota said in a statement that the company respects the jury’s decision, but believes “the evidence clearly demonstrated that Mr. Lee’s 1996 Camry was not the cause of this unfortunate accident.” Toyota said it would consider its legal options.