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Fri January 18, 2013
The Two-Way

Toyota Settles Wrongful Death Lawsuits Linked With Sudden Acceleration Problems

Originally published on Fri January 18, 2013 1:35 pm

Toyota has agreed to settle lawsuits with the relatives of two people killed in one of their vehicles, allegedly after the engine suddenly accelerated. Paul Van Alfen and Charlene Jones Lloyd died near Wendover, Utah in 2010 when their Toyota Camry crashed into a wall.

The Associated Press reports the couple were driving on a freeway when the motor sped up. Investigators found skid marks near the crash scene, showing them that Van Alfen, who was driving, tried to brake as the car hurtled down a freeway exit ramp, through an intersection and into the wall. Two passengers were hurt.

Toyota's sudden acceleration problems have been blamed on problems with its electrical systems. Instead, as Bill writes, the Transportation Department ruled in 2011 the acceleration was caused by sticky gas pedals, loose floor mats and driver error. An independent panel found the same thing a year later, NPR's Sonari Glinton reported. Still, the automaker recalled more than eight million cars and trucks around the world.

Last month, Toyota moved to settle more lawsuits that would pay back consumers who lost money when the value of their recalled vehicles dropped. It also pays for additional work on vehicles that reduces acceleration when the brake and gas pedal are applied at the same time. Toyota's website for the settlement is here. This settlement could cost as much as $1.4 billion dollars. It does not cover the wrongful death lawsuits.

Terms of the latest settlement were kept private, according to the Los Angeles Times, which reports there are more than 300 sudden acceleration lawsuits pending in state and federal courts. Even though it's costly for Toyota to settle the cases, it keeps key automaker information out of the courtroom, and away from plaintiffs still waiting to go to trial. As the Times adds, that could include "inconvenient or embarrassing information" material about Toyota's vehicles, including the controversial electronics systems.

Copyright 2013 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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