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An out-of-court settlement has been reached in the Toyota wrongful death case that brought national attention to Toyota's products liability issue, and also spurred the recall of over 8 million Toyota vehicles. The deaths brought national attention to the potential that a driver-side door mat could trap the accelerator pedal, causing deadly sudden acceleration problems.
The New York Times quotes the only statement given by Toyota on the confidential settlement, "Through mutual respect and cooperation we were able to resolve this matter without the need the for litigation." The 2009 San Diego crash killed off-duty California Highway Patrol Officer Mark Saylor, his wife, their daughter, and his brother in law. The family was driving a Lexus (on loan while Saylor's car was in the shop) when the luxury vehicle suddenly and uncontrollably accelerated to 120 miles per hour before crashing into another car, and ultimately landing in a ravine. Moments before the crash, Saylor's brother-in-law, Chris Lastrella, was on the phone with 911 detailing the scary ordeal.
The Toyota wrongful death case was just against the car company, and the settlement does not cover a similar suit the families have against the local dealership that loaned Mark Saylor the car. In addition to sudden acceleration problems caused by the door mat, there was also a recall for defective pedals believed to be responsible for similar sudden acceleration problems.
The recent settlement may be the first of many for Toyota. Since the Saylor crash, there have been 93 deaths linked to some type of Toyota acceleration defect. In addition to paying a fine of $16.4 million to the government for failing to initiate the recall in a timely manner, Toyota is also defending itself against a sizeable class action over injuries and deaths related to the various defects.