An automobile accident involving a Lexus (subsidiary of Toyota) vehicle resulted in the deaths of four people in California on August 28, 2009. Mark Saylor took his car into the Bob Baker Lexus dealer in El Cajon, CA to have it serviced and they provided him a loaner 2009 Lexus. While Saylor was driving the Lexus loaner it suddenly accelerated and he couldn’t control the car. One of the three other occupants in the car called the police on their cell phone to report that the car’s accelerator was stuck. The Lexus rear ended another vehicle before going down an embankment and bursting into flames at the bottom of the San Diego River killing everyone inside the car. According to the local police, witnesses on the scene estimated the Lexus was going over 100 mph before it crashed into the embankment.
After an investigation it was determined that the Lexus accident in California was caused by an ill-fitting floor mat and the gas pedal that got entangled in it, prevented Saylor from being able to stop the car. This prompted the first recall for over 8.5 million Toyota vehicles over floor mats and gas pedals and opened the door for many other lawsuits with Toyota over sudden acceleration in both Toyota and Lexus automobiles. After the Saylor accident, many other reports of Toyota acceleration problems were filed and runaway Toyota and Lexus vehicles have now been linked to hundreds of crashes and reportedly over 50 deaths.
A lawsuit was filed by the parents of Mark Saylor and his wife against Toyota. Also named in the Saylor lawsuit is the Bob Baker Lexus dealership that provided Mark Saylor the loaner car while his own car was being serviced. According to the accident report, another driver who had borrowed the same vehicle from the dealer a few days before the tragic auto accident complained to the receptionist that the Lexus had accelerated out of control when the gas pedal got stuck in the floor mat. Fortunately, he was able to free the accelerator when he put the gear shift in neutral.
The Toyota acceleration problems are an important business issue. For years, Toyota has been widely recognized for its quality. Even after all the Toyota recalls and problems with sudden acceleration, Consumer Reports 2010 stated that the most problem-free cars are made by Toyota and Honda. I agree that it is important to determine whether the sudden acceleration accidents were the result of negligence on Toyota’s part or if the accidents were due to driver error. In all business, companies strive to produce a product without defects. Since Toyota is such a large company with a worldwide reputation, other companies follow their suit. Many people will be watching to see how Toyota handles themselves in the face of these recalls and lawsuits. This could set a tone for all companies on how to handle defective product issues and enforce strict consequences in the name of high paying lawsuits for those companies that do not follow the rules.
There are many questions involved in the Toyota products liability lawsuits. Did Toyota install defective parts in their vehicles? Did Toyota know about the sudden acceleration problem and not do anything about it? Installing faulty parts and knowingly covering it up would result in negligence on Toyota’s part. How can a company known for such high quality keep such information a secret from consumers? Were some of the accidents results of driver error and thus can be defended using comparative negligence? Are the suppliers who provided some of the parts such as the floor mats and gas pedals liable?
The fact that Toyota recalled the parts that were said to be involved in causing the sudden acceleration problems proves that the parts were defective. In regards to the question of whether Toyota knew there was a problem, The Washington Post reported that the automaker was aware of acceleration problems in...