Toyota Motors will pay over $1 billion to settle a class action lawsuit related to sudden acceleration problems with its vehicles. The proposed settlement covers 16 million vehicles sold under the Toyota, Lexus and Scion brands in model years 1998 to 2010. The case includes the Camry and Corolla models, which are highly popular with Colorado motorists and other drivers across the country.
Consumers who purchased the cars allege that unintended acceleration caused them to have car accidents. The settlement will pay claims for class members' economic damages only. Most cases involving personal injuries and wrongful death resulting from car crashes have already been resolved.
Negative publicity over the acceleration problems peaked in August 2009, when an off-duty California Highway Patrol officer and three members of his family were killed in a high-speed car crash. Toyota settled the resulting litigation out of court. The accident triggered a congressional inquiry where company executives publicly apologized.
Toyota continues to deny that car accidents were caused by acceleration problems. The company cites "reliable scientific evidence" and independent evaluations that all reached the same conclusion: that Toyota's electronic throttle control systems are safe. Toyota blames the problems on sticking accelerator pedals and poorly fitting floor mats that may have interfered with a driver's ability to control the gas pedal.
The class action settlement is the largest in U.S. history, topping a $240 million payment related to a Firestone tire safety recall in 2001, when Ford replaced 13 million defective tires on its Explorer SUVs. A California judge must approve the Toyota settlement before it will become effective.
Source: Reuters, "Toyota seeks to settle acceleration case for $1.1 billion," Deepa Seetharaman and Bernie Woodall, Dec. 27, 2012