Eleven years after a crash caused by a Toyota Camry that accelerated uncontrollably, killing three people and injuring several others, a judge upheld a jury’s finding that Toyota was liable for the incident, ordering the carmaker to pay $14 million.
The crash, which occurred on June 10, 2006, occurred when a 1996 Camry accelerated up an off-ramp on its own accord and rear-ended an Oldsmobile Cierra that was stopped at a red light. The crash killed the father and son in the Cierra, and rendered that man’s six-year old niece a quadriplegic. She died a year after the accident.
While the driver of the Camry maintained that the brakes failed as he was driving up the ramp, he was eventually sentenced to eight years in prison for vehicular homicide and careless driving.
When Toyota recalled more than eight million Camry vehicles in 2008 for unintended acceleration, the man was able to successfully challenge this conviction, even though his vehicle was not covered by the recall, and was released after serving 2.5 years.
The family of one of the Cierra passengers and two others who were seriously injured in the crash filed a product liability lawsuit against Toyota in 2010, alleging that the crash was caused by a defect in the driver’s car. The driver later joined as a third-party plaintiff. Toyota argued there was no design defect and that the driver was negligent.
That trial ended in 2015, when the jury found that the driver was 40% responsible for the crash, while Toyota was 60% responsible. As a result, the jury ordered Toyota to pay nearly $11 million in damages to the victim’s family and the driver.
Following the jury’s finding, the judge in the case increased the payment to the family of the child who died one year after the crash from $4 million to $7.3 million, bringing the total awarded to nearly $14 million.
Toyota appealed the jury ruling, claiming that the evidence presented during the three-week trail should have been omitted and that some of the damages awarded should have been less prejudgement interest.
However, the three-judge panel ruled on Friday that the previous court properly admitted evidence and took precautions to ensure the jury heard from qualified experts.
The panel found that both experts presented at trial testified extensively about their respective theories of defect and causation and both were subjected to lengthy and detailed cross-examination.
Additionally, the panel found that the court properly allowed the other similar instances of unintended acceleration to be included in evidence.
“The court demonstrated a keen awareness of the potential dangers of admitting such evidence, explaining that it did not want the OSI evidence to ‘obscure from the liability case of the plaintiffs,’ or ‘overcome the jury’s focus,’ and that ‘jury confusion is an issue that [the court] wants to make sure [it] always has in mind,’” the judge wrote.
Friday’s appeals court ruling is just the latest Toyota has paid related to unintended acceleration claims. Back in March 2014, the company was ordered to pay $1.2 billion to settle a criminal investigation into unintended acceleration.