Toyota's recent victory in a California sudden acceleration trial is noteworthy. But it's only good as far as it goes. The case involved a new theory, relying not on an electronic defect but instead pointing towards the absence of a brake override system. The incident occurred when a driver crashed into Noriko Uno, which propelled Uno's car into a sudden acceleration. The jury placed blame at the hands of the driver, to the tune of $10 million, while hearing Toyota's theory that having been hit by a car, Ms. Uno must have inadvertently slammed on the gas pedal instead of the brake.
It's easy to offer opinions after the dust has settled, but one can't ignore that this case was not an easy one for the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs faced obstacles that aren't ordinarily present in the electronic defect sudden acceleration case. For example, they faced at least three significant challenges: They have to convince the jury that the driver who crashed into Ms. Uno wasn't too blame; they had to overcome the theory about hitting the wrong pedal; and they had to convince the jurors that this wasn't a defect, but a failure to have the safer override system. It was a valiant effort. They fought the good fight. And by taking a case that faced such challenges, you have to hand it to them for trying.
But all is not lost for plaintiffs injured as a result of sudden defect acceleration. In November, Toyota heads back to trial, this time in a bellwether case that they selected for trial. The plaintiff's case is the more straightforward electronic defect case. If Toyota loses this trial, it may be time for them to start thinking about a settlement strategy.