A ruling by a Palm Beach Circuit Court Judge has taken the potential damages in a case against Toyota Motor Corp. from initial estimates of $15 million to $20 million to a staggering potential of $180 million, according to the plaintiff’s attorney.

The Palm Beach County Judge, Meenu Sasser, informed lawyers for plaintiff, Bret Quinlan that they would be allowed to ask for punitive damages against Toyota in an accident involving his 2001 Camry.  This products liability case is one of several hundred throughout the United States involving Toyota’s electronic throttle-control system, which allegedly can cause its vehicles to accelerate without warning.

Quinlan was driving his Camry on State Road 551 in Orlando on July 17, 2011, when it suddenly went out of control and collided into a building.  His injuries in the accident left him a quadriplegic, requiring around the clock medical care.

Toyota spokesman Amanda Rice issued a statement saying, “Multiple independent evaluations have confirmed the safety of Toyota’s electronic throttle control systems, which are equipped with numerous, robust fail-safe systems.  Bottom line, there are no real-world scenarios in which Toyota electronics can cause unintended acceleration, and we do not believe a brake override system would have prevented this unfortunate accident.”

In 2013, an Oklahoma City jury awarded $3 million to victims of a similar incident.  It was the first loss for Toyota in a spontaneous acceleration case.  The company had denied there were any defects prior to this case.  Officials from Toyota allegedly tried to use faulty floor mat placement to cover up any electronic malfunctions.

Toyota also recalled more than 10 million vehicles for problems relating to its acceleration control systems.  The first, involved over 3.5 million vehicles with a defect that could cause floor mats to jam accelerator pedals.  The company also entered into an agreement with the Justice Department and agreed to pay a $1.2 billion fine, admitting that the company misled consumers by concealing and misspeaking about safety issues that caused spontaneous acceleration.

In Quinlan’s case, his attorneys offered evidence reflecting “facts from which it could be found that defendants were aware of both the electronic and mechanical issues, but delayed warning the public of the electronic issues in order to protect their own interests.”  Judge Sasser noted that such a finding would indeed support the availability of punitive damages.

For further discussion on this topic or if you or someone you know has been injured in an accident, please contact our accident attorneys for a free consultation.

The Schulman Law Group – (954) 349-3300