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Landmark Trial for Toyota Concludes

Oct 10, 2013

Uno v. Toyota

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In the first bellwether trial of an alleged unintended acceleration case in the California state court coordinated proceedings, the Toyota defendants received a defense verdict on Thursday, October 10, 2013 in the Los Angeles County Superior Court (Central Civil West) in Uno v. Toyota, et al. (Judicial Council Coordinated Proceeding No. 4621).  The defense verdict came following ten weeks of trial and four and a half days of deliberations.  The jury awarded $10 million against co-defendant Olga Bello.  Plaintiffs asked the jury to award $20 million in compensatory damages and unspecified punitive damages against Toyota.  Plaintiffs also made a statutory demand of $30 million to the Toyota defendants.

The case involved the alleged wrongful death of Noriko Uno (age 66), who was driving her 2006 Camry on August 28, 2009, southbound on Euclid Avenue in Upland, California, when she was involved in a crash with Bello (age 86), who had rolled through a stop sign and struck Uno's Camry on the driver's side, spinning her around about 170 degrees.  Thereafter, Uno drove away from the scene of the crash, making two right turns, and then headed the wrong way southbound in the northbound lanes of Euclid.  The Camry was seen traveling faster and faster against traffic.  The Camry ran up on a low curb, then sideswiped two telephone poles, and finally veered into the median, knocking down a small tree and then impacting a larger tree at about 50-55 mph on the driver's side.  Uno died instantly.  

Counsel for plaintiffs Peter and Jeffrey Uno (spouse and son of decedent) claimed that in the initial crash, Uno's right foot had been caught behind the brake pedal with her heel on the accelerator pedal, resulting in the Camry driving away from the initial crash at nearly full throttle, and that she attempted to stop the vehicle initially by braking with her left foot and ultimately with the park brake.  Plaintiffs alleged that a brake override system would have prevented the alleged unintended acceleration event and the eventual fatal accident.  The fact that Toyota retrofitted 2007-2010 Model Year Camry's with brake override software following the Company’s "floor mat" and "sticky pedal" recalls in 2009 and 2010 was allowed into evidence.  In defense, Toyota demonstrated a brake override system would not have prevented this accident.  Toyota also argued the Camry's brakes would have stopped the Camry had Uno applied them at any time during the incident, and that the park brake handle was pushed up due to crash deformation.  Toyota also showed Uno likely was cognitively impaired, due to a hypoglycemic event attributable to her recently starting insulin, or from the encephalopathy from her liver cirrhosis (not alcohol related), or both. 

Plaintiffs named the following Toyota entities in the lawsuit:  Toyota Motor Corporation, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc., Toyota Motor North America Inc., Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc., and R&C Motor Corporation dba Claremont Toyota.

Plaintiffs presented the following experts: Neil Hannemann (Design defect and lack of brake override system), Richard A. Hille (Reconstruction), David M. Posey, M.D. (Biomechanics), Viktor E. Eysselein, M.D (Gastroenterology) and John A. Tayek, M.D. (Endcrinology).

Toyota presented the following experts: James Walker (Design defect and brake override system), Michael James (Brake performance), Douglas Young,  Ph.D. (Human Factors), Catherine Ford Corrigan,  Ph.D. (Biomechanics), Gregory Smith,  Ph.D. (Reconstruction), Stanley Schwartz, M.D. (Endocrinology) and Peter Cassini, M.D. (Neurology).

Plaintiffs were represented by Garo Mardirossian and Armen Akaragian, Mardirossian & Associates, Los Angeles, CA

The Toyota defendants were represented by Vincent Galvin, Jr., Mark V. Berry, Curtis E. Jimerson and Anne O. Hanna of Bowman and Brooke LLP.  Defendant Olga Bello was represented by John J. Duffy and Rene M. Faucher of Gray-Duffy, LLP. 

Read national media coverage of the verdict.

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