Family's Tragedy Leads to Toyota Recalls and Lawsuits
The numbers are adding up. And they do not appear to favor Toyota. The automaker has recalled over eight million vehicles — more than six million in the U.S. — because of problems with acceleration and braking.
Federal regulators say 52 deaths are linked to Toyota crashes allegedly caused by problems with sudden acceleration. And problems continue to roll in: more than 60 reports of acceleration problems in vehicles that have undergone dealer repairs under the recalls by the Japanese auto giant.
Perhaps most troubling for Toyota may be the recent lawsuit brought by the families of California Highw ay Patrol officer Mark Saylor, his wife and his brother-in-law, all of whom were killed last summer in a runaway Lexus. The officer was driving the car, which was a loaner from a dealership, when it accelerated up to 120 mph on a Southern California freeway, slamming into another vehicle before flipping and bursting into flames.
Family Files Suit
Family members allege product liability against Toyota, maker of the Lexus, and negligence against the dealership.
The lawsuit presents some particularly difficult problems for Toyota: the suburban San Diego dealership lent the Lexus to Saylor and the driver who had previously borrowed the car had complained that the accelerator had become stuck. Also, the Lexus had thick floor mats designed for a different type of vehicle.
Perhaps worst of all is the disturbing recording of the 911 call from Saylor’s vehicle in which his brother-in-law tells the dispatcher, “we’re in trouble; there’s no brakes.” Cries from the distraught passengers can be heard — “pray” and “hold on” — before the call cuts out as the vehicle crashes.
The Recalls Begin
The tragedy of the Saylor family spurred the first of a number of recalls of Toyota vehicles.
A month after the fatal crash, Toyota announced the recall of 3.8 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles because floor mats could cause accelerators to get stuck or trapped. This recall was later expanded to 4.2 million vehicles.
In January of this year, another 2.3 million vehicles were recalled for sticking accelerator problems. Later that month, the floor mat recall was expanded again: this time by just over one million vehicles.
In February, Toyota recalled the 2010 Prius and other hybrids because of brake problems. Over 400,000 vehicles were involved.
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