Seven insurance companies have filed lawsuits against Toyota Motor Corp. seeking a minimum of USD 230,000 to cover the cost of claims paid for accidents related to the unintended acceleration problems identified in Toyota vehicles in the past several years.
The insurers filed separate but identical complaints Dec. 30 in Los Angeles County Superior Court, claiming that defects in Toyota vehicles were the cause of the crashes. “Certain of Toyota’s cars and trucks have a defect that causes sudden, uncontrolled acceleration to speeds of up to 100 miles per hour or more,” the complaints allege. “This defect is combined with the operator’s inability to stop the vehicle during such an incidence due to defective electronics and the absence of a fail-safe, such as a brake-override system.”
The lawsuits are similar to one filed by Allstate Corp. three months ago in the same court seeking $3 million in damages. The litigants are American Hardware Mutual Insurance Co., Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co., National Surety Corp., American Automobile Insurance Co., Ameriprise Insurance Co., Motorists Mutual Insurance Co. and IDS Property Casualty Insurance Co.
These types of claims “are common between insurers and auto makers. However, Toyota believes that any allegation that a vehicle-based defect is the cause of unintended acceleration in this or any other complaint is completely unfounded and has no basis,” said Celeste Migliore, a Toyota spokeswoman.
A message left with Edward Ordonez, one of the attorneys listed on the complaints, was not immediately returned.
In addition to the lawsuits from the insurance companies, Toyota faces more than a hundred complaints in federal court related to unintended acceleration. Most complaints contend that Toyota’s electronic throttle control system malfunctioned, causing cars to speed out of control.
Toyota has steadfastly denied problems with its electronics. It has admitted it had sticky throttles and floormats that could slip and entrap the pedal. These problems led to more than eight million recalls globally and a temporary halt to sales of eight Toyota models in the U.S. The company also began installing brake-override systems in all of its models and retroactively installing the system on some high-volume models during the recall. The system cuts power to the engine when both the brake and accelerator pedal are depressed.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has been investigating Toyota vehicles for more than six months and has enlisted the aid of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to run tests of vehicles. So far, no evidence of electronic problems has surfaced, but a final report hasn’t been released.
Indeed, analysis of crashes that have occurred in the past year where unintended acceleration was blamed shows that drivers were accidentally hitting the accelerator pedal instead of the brake in most cases.
The Los Angeles Times first reported the lawsuits.
Source : The Wall Street Journal