Toyota found liable in U.S. for fatal crash caused by unintended acceleration


By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK, Oct 24 (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp hasbeen found liable in an unintended acceleration lawsuit in theU.S., one of the first such cases to go to trial since theJapanese carmaker began recalling millions of vehicles in 2009over acceleration issues.

A jury in Oklahoma on Thursday awarded $3 million incompensatory damages to Jean Bookout, a driver injured in a 2007crash, and the family of Barbara Schwarz, who was killed.

The lawsuit claimed defects caused Bookout's 2005 Camry toaccelerate unexpectedly, leading to the crash. Deliberationswill resume on Friday to determine punitive damages.

The case, one of hundreds brought by individuals across thecountry claiming that their Toyota vehicles accelerated withoutwarning, is the first to result in a verdict against thecarmaker.

In two previous cases to reach trial, one in California andone in New York, juries found in Toyota's favor.

Toyota representatives did not immediately respond torequests for comment. Lawyers for the plaintiffs declined tocomment, citing a gag order imposed by the judge.

There have been approximately 200 proposed class actions andmore than 500 individual cases filed against Toyota sinceFebruary 2009 over the alleged acceleration issues, according toa recent company regulatory filing.

The Oklahoma lawsuit claimed the Camry accelerated suddenlyon Sept. 20, 2007, while Bookout was driving along an interstatehighway and that applying both the brake and the emergency brakedid nothing to slow it down.

The 2005 Camry model was not included in theacceleration-related recalls.

Toyota has already agreed to pay more than $1 billion tosettle class-action claims from owners over economic lossessuffered because of the alleged defects. But that deal did notcover individual injury and wrongful death lawsuits.

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