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Toyota settles lawsuit tied to crash that triggered recalls
20 September 2010 - Toyota owners had been contacting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about unintended acceleration issues for years, but one tragedy put the spotlight on Toyota's problems. Last August, California police officer Mark Saylor and three family members died when the family's 2009 Lexus ES 350 rental flipped and caught fire after a trapped floor mat reportedly caused the vehicle to speed out of control.
A month later Toyota, officially recalled 3.8 million vehicles for floor mat issues and by February 2010 over eight million vehicles were recalled for unintended acceleration issues worldwide. Toyota Motor Corp. settled a suit with relatives of four people killed in a San Diego accident that prompted the Japanese automaker to recall vehicles on concern they might suddenly accelerate.
“Through mutual respect and cooperation we were able to resolve this matter without the need for litigation,” Toyota said in a statement late Friday, without disclosing the terms of the settlement.
Toyota President Akio Toyoda, in remarks to Congress in February, apologized to the family of Mark Saylor, the California Highway Patrol officer who was killed along with his wife, daughter and brother-in-law in a Lexus that sped out of control in August 2009. Investigators identified floor mats as a probable cause of that accident.
“Especially, I would like to extend my condolences to the members of the Saylor family, for the accident in San Diego,” Toyoda said in front of a U.S. House Committee on Feb. 23. “I would like to send my prayers again, and I will do everything in my power to ensure that such a tragedy never happens again.”
The accident occurred near San Diego on Aug. 28, 2009, while Saylor was driving a 2009 ES 350 loaned to him by a local Lexus dealership, the company said. Following the accident, Toyota on Sept. 30, 2009, announced plans for its biggest ever recall in the United States, covering 3.8 million vehicles, for floor mats that could slip out of position and jam gas pedals.
Toyota has recalled about 8 million vehicles worldwide to fix sticky pedals and misshapen floor mats linked to unintended sudden acceleration. Plaintiff lawyers have said the cars' electronic throttle system caused the problems, an allegation that Toyota has denied.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in May that Toyota vehicles in unintended acceleration crashes may be linked to 89 deaths since 2000.