Toyota Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Over Defective Gas Pedal

Another Toyota wrongful death lawsuit has been filed over a fatal auto accident allegedly caused by the uncontrolled, sudden acceleration of a Toyota Corolla.

Trina Renee Harris, 34, died in December in Houston, Texas, when her 2008 Corolla blew through a stop sign and ran into a concrete wall. The Toyota model was one of more than 5 million vehicles that have been included in a series of Toyota recalls over the last several months due to problems with sudden acceleration. Her husband, Michael Harris, filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Harris County District Court on February 1 against Toyota, gas pedal manufacturer CTS Corp., and the Fred Haas Toyota World car dealership.

The mother of two died while her husband, an officer in the U.S. Navy, was on assignment in San Diego after a tour of duty on an aircraft carrier in the Middle East. According to the Toyota product liability lawsuit, the accident was caused by a defective accelerator pedal.

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In September 2009, a Lexus and Toyota recall was issued for 3.8 million vehicles that contained certain all-weather floor mats, which Toyota indicated could get stuck under the gas pedals, causing unintended acceleration.  In January, Toyota issued another recall for 2.3 million Toyota vehicles, including 600,000 that were not subject to the prior floor mat recall due to an actual mechanical problem that was causing some gas pedals to stick. Shortly after, the company stopped production and sales on eight of its most popular vehicles, including the Corolla, Camry, and Tundra. The company has also announced it is recalling nearly 2 million vehicles in Europe and almost 80,000 in China.

Last week, Toyota announced a fix for the recalled gas pedals, indicating that they will make repairs that eliminate the problems that have caused some accelerator pedals to stick. The repair involves the addition of a shim to a part of the pedal assemblage, which will prevent a resistance spring from locking up due to friction.

In addition to the gas pedal problems, the Japanese automaker announced this week that they will issue a Toyota Prius recall for about 300,000 of the hybrid vehicless due to brake problems sometime this week. Toyota officials say that the Prius brake problem was caused by the vehicle switching between traditional braking systems and an electronic system that helps recharge the car’s battery. Drivers would feel a moment where the brakes did not appear to be working as the system switched over. The problem was fixed by a software adjustment, the company claims.

The gas pedal recall has resulted in a slew of Toyota lawsuits. About a dozen class action lawsuits against Toyota have been filed, including eight since the end of January. There have also been several wrongful death Toyota lawsuits, like Harris’s.  Attorneys familiar with the cases say Toyota will likely be hit by an additional three dozen lawsuits in coming weeks.  All of the cases claim that Toyota knew or should have known about the defective gas pedal problems and sold defective and dangerous vehicles to the public.

As of February 5, Bloomberg News reports that there were about 30 lawsuits over the Toyota accelerator problems.

The Harris wrongful death lawsuit charges the defendants with gross negligence, and seeks $200 million in compensatory and punitive damages. Toyota has indicated that the true cause of the accident should be determined before the company can respond. Experts from Harris’s legal team and insurance company inspectors are expected to conduct investigations of the wreckage.

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