Toyota to pay $10 million in runaway Lexus crash

Toyota Motor Corp. agreed to pay $10 million to the family of four people killed in a runaway Lexus crash that led to recalls of millions of the automaker's vehicles, attorneys said today.

John Gomez, a lawyer who represents the victims' family, and Larry N. Willis, who represents the dealership that lent the Lexus to the family, confirmed the settlement amount of $10 million.

Toyota, which did not admit or deny liability in the settlement, fought to keep the settlement amount confidential, but the Los Angeles Times newspaper and The Associated Press argued that the public's interest in the case outweighed confidentiality concerns.

A Superior Court judge on Monday agreed, but imposed a gag order in case the family wanted to appeal. They did not appeal, allowing lawyers to release the amount.

Toyota said in a statement it was disappointed the amount had been made public.

"As is common in these cases, these parties agreed to keep the amount confidential, in part to protect the families from unwanted solicitations and to allow them to move on from this difficult period," the automaker said.

The August 2009 crash killed off-duty California Highway Patrol Officer Mark Saylor, 45, his wife, their daughter and Saylor's brother-in-law Chris Lastrella.

They were killed on a suburban San Diego freeway when their car reached speeds of more than 120 mph, struck a sport utility vehicle, launched off an embankment, rolled several times and burst into flames.

Investigators determined that a wrong-size floor mat trapped the accelerator and caused the crash.

Toyota recalled millions of cars to replace floor mats that it said could cause the accelerator to jam. The carmaker later recalled millions more vehicles to replace gas pedals that it said could stick.

The case was considered the strongest of hundreds of lawsuits that have since been filed and consolidated before a federal judge in Orange County over claims stemming from sudden acceleration in several Toyota models, and brake glitches with the company's Prius hybrid.



Toyota and the plaintiffs sought to keep the settlement amount in the Lexus case confidential, with the automaker arguing the release of the settlement details could affect pending litigation and hurt its reputation.



Superior Court Judge Anthony Mohr, however, said the public's right to the details outweighed those concerns, and he denied a motion to keep the settlement sealed.



Mohr also extended a gag order until late Wednesday in order to give either side the chance to seek a stay, and up to 10 days to decide whether to pull the settlement altogether.



Tim Pestotnik, a lawyer who represented the Saylor family, said his clients opted not to pursue a stay or appeal the judge's order allowing the release of the settlement amount.



"The families seek only privacy and peace at this time," Pestotnik said.



Toyota said Bob Baker Lexus' interest in making the settlement amount public was to shift the focus away from the dealership as the business continues its own litigation with the families and said it would continued to "defend itself vigorously against the misleading allegations Bob Baker Lexus is making against Toyota."



The carmaker pointed out in its statement that the dealership installed a larger, thicker SUV mat in the Lexus sedan without the plastic retaining clips and the acclerator pedal became trapped in the grooves of that mat.



But Willis, the dealership's Orange County attorney, said the investigation also found that floor mats were not the cause of the full throttle acceleration.



"What Toyota fails to mention is that the same official reports note that electronic components and mechanical causes may have been involved and causes of the accident, but could not be properly evaluated due to the extensive nature of the damage," he said in a statement.



Willis noted that Toyota has since incorporated a brake override system in Lexus vehicles.



"Such a system would have prevented this, or virtually any other sudden acceleration accident, whether such acceleration was caused by floor mats, sticking accelerator pedals or an electronic failure," he said.



Toyota, he said, has failed to step up and protect its dealer from lawsuits over its vehicle.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

The Grange Retirement Home: Full Time Care Team Manager

£22,400: The Grange Retirement Home: This is a key role which requires a sound...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Web Developer

£30 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Software / Web Developer (PHP / MYSQL) i...

Guru Careers: Account Executive

£18 - 20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: An Account Executive is needed to join one...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada