Toyota settles first in series of death lawsuits


Sat, Jan 19, 2013 - Page 15

Toyota Motor Corp has settled what was to be the first in a group of hundreds of pending wrongful death and injury lawsuits involving sudden, unintended acceleration by Toyota vehicles, a company spokesman said.

Toyota reached the agreement in the case brought by the family of Paul Van Alfen and Charlene Jones Lloyd, spokeswoman Celeste Migliore said on Thursday.

They were killed when their Toyota Camry slammed into a wall in Utah in 2010.

Migliore declined to disclose the financial terms.

Attorney Mark Robinson, who represents the nine plaintiffs named in the suit, did not reply to phone or e-mail messages.

The remaining lawsuits are not affected by the settlement, Migliore said.

Toyota issued a statement saying that the company and its attorneys may decide to settle select cases, but “we will have a number of other opportunities to defend our product at trial.”

“We sympathize with anyone in an accident involving one of our vehicles,” the statement said, “however we continue to stand fully behind the safety and integrity of Toyota’s Electronic Throttle Control System, which multiple independent evaluations have confirmed as safe.”

The Los Angeles Times, which first reported the agreement on Wednesday, said that Toyota had also reached a settlement in another case brought by retired Los Angeles police officer Michael Houlf.

The case was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court and brought under California’s lemon law for vehicles.

The size of that settlement and details about that case were not immediately available.

Last month, Toyota agreed to a settlement worth more than US$1 billion to resolve hundreds of lawsuits claiming economic losses Toyota owners suffered when the Japanese automaker recalled millions of vehicles. Hundreds more lawsuits involving wrongful death and injury remained.

The Van Alfen case was to be the first of those tried, and to serve as a bellwether for the rest.

It had been set to go to trial in February.

In 2010, Toyota settled a previous wrongful death lawsuit for US$10 million before the current cases were consolidated in US District Court in Santa Ana.