Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Over Lexus Accident That Prompted Recalls

A wrongful death lawsuit against Toyota has been filed on behalf of a California state trooper and three of his family members who were killed when a Lexus ES350 experienced uncontrolled acceleration, and careened off the road. The fatal accident sparked much of the media attention on Toyota gas pedal problems that have resulted in the recall of millions of vehicles in recent months. 

The case was filed over an August 2009 accident that killed off-duty California Highway Patrol Officer Mark Saylor, his wife Cleofe, their 13 year-old daughter Mahala and Cleofe’s brother, Chris Lastrella.

At the time of the crash, Saylor was driving a loaner vehicle from a dealership while his car was being repaired. The Lexus accelerated out of control, reaching speeds as high as 120 m.p.h. before slamming into another vehicle and careening off an embankment.

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While the car was accelerating out-of-control, Lastrella called 9-1-1- from inside the vehicle to get help. In addition, witnesses reported that the car’s wheels burst into flames as Mark Saylor stood on the brakes in an attempt to stop the vehicle.

Following the crash, investigators determined that the floor mats were the incorrect size for the car and got jammed under the accelerator. They also found that the brakes were ineffective in slowing the car.

The Lexus wrongful death lawsuit was filed in San Diego Superior Court on Tuesday by Saylor’s family. It names Toyota Motor Corp. and other Toyota entities in the U.S., as well as El Cajon Luxury Cars, Inc. as defendants.

Approximately one month after the accident, on September 29, Toyota announced a floor mat recall impacting 3.8 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles that contained a certain type of floor mat on the driver’s side that could cause the accelerator to stick.

The Japanese automaker later recalled millions more vehicles when it was discovered that, in some cases, the gas pedal itself was getting stuck without the floor mats. The Toyota gas pedal problems have been associated with dozens of accidents and a number of serious and fatal personal injury claims. The incidents have touched off a wave of Toyota product liability lawsuits, several other wrongful death claims, and a number of Toyota class-action lawsuits.

Later this month, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation will decide whether to consolidate all federal lawsuits against Toyota into a MDL under one federal court for pretrial litigation. Unless the Saylor lawsuit is transferred to federal court, it would likely remain a separate California state lawsuit.

Chris Lastrella’s mother, Fe Lastrella, testified before the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last week during a hearing over the Toyota recalls. The company’s actions have been highly criticized, as documents and other evidence suggest that the company knew of the sudden acceleration problem long before the deaths and the recall.

During the hearing, Akio Toyoda, the company’s president and grandson of the company’s founder, personally apologized to Saylor’s family.

Last month Toyota became the target of probes by both federal prosecutors and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Both federal investigators and the SEC are looking into how the company reacted to complaints about Toyota accelerator problems, and are questioning whether the company attempted to cover up or downplay the seriousness and number of incidents being reported.

4 Comments

  • KevinMarch 2, 2020 at 2:06 pm

    I think my lexus is250 had the same issue, I was unconscious for about 2-3 months. I have a police report.

  • leeApril 29, 2010 at 10:31 pm

    shame on toyota! listening to that phone call was absolutley heart renching. to even think that could happen to me and my family brings tears to my eyes as i own a toyota 4runner. well rest assured toyota will never do business with me. my prayers go out to the family lost due to toyotas lack of saftey control and i eargerly await the enivitable bankrupting of this company.

  • AMANDAMarch 9, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    It is obvious that the death of the highway patrol officer and the recent incident involving the toyota prius was caused by mechanical or electrical malfunctions with the vehicle. If a floor mat were to cause the acceleration, you could correct it when you realized the mat was the problem. Toyota is using that as a cop out because obviously they do not want to correct the real problem. After this [Show More]It is obvious that the death of the highway patrol officer and the recent incident involving the toyota prius was caused by mechanical or electrical malfunctions with the vehicle. If a floor mat were to cause the acceleration, you could correct it when you realized the mat was the problem. Toyota is using that as a cop out because obviously they do not want to correct the real problem. After this I will assure you that my family will never step foot in a Toyota. My condolences go to the Saylor family and I hope you win.

  • MarcelleMarch 9, 2010 at 5:27 am

    I had an accident in my Lexus where the gas pedal got stuck 2 weeks before the Saylor's deadly accident and I am living to tell about it. My car had severe damage and I am afraid to drive my car.

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