January 18th, 2013

In our first post of 2013, we announced that Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corporation had reached a settlement where it would pay more than $1 billion to settle class action lawsuits based on economic losses stemming from various defects involving faulty floor mats.

We also noted that the settlement did not include scores of lawsuits seeking damages in wrongful death and personal injury claims. However, Toyota recently announced a settlement with the first in a line of such cases. Essentially, it has come to terms with the families of Paul Van Alfren and Charlene Jones Lloyd. The two were killed in a 2010 crash on Interstate 80 in Utah after the Camry Van Alfren was driving suddenly accelerated, careened down an off-ramp and through an intersection before finally hitting a wall.

The financial terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but it is viewed as a test case for how similar matters may be handled as future claims are brought to trial. In a statement, Toyota expressed its sympathy for any people (and their families) who were hurt in accidents. At the same time, the company looked forward to defending other cases and expressed its confidence in the safety and integrity of its much-maligned throttle control system.

In the meantime, we believe that the recently settled case may lead Toyota to settle similar suits despite the statements it makes in public. Unlike consumer protection cases, wrongful death cases tend to involve much more financial exposure and potential damage to the automakers commercial appeal.

We will monitor the situation and report on new developments as they become available.

Source: ABC, Toyota settles in case of two killed in Utah crash, January 18, 2013