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Toyota Crash Questions May Reopen Vehicular Manslaughter Conviction

Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, March 02, 2010 11:40 AM EST
Category: On The Road
Tags: Toyota, Unintended Acceleration, NHTSA, Sticking Gas Pedals, Recall, Prius, Tundra, Lexus, Highlander, Class-Action

Mr. Lee may try to win a reversal of his vehicdular manslaughter conviction  by revisiting his accelerating Camry.

Was The Camry Runaway?

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IMAGE SOURCE: Koua Fong Lee / CNN Web site

29-year-old Koua Fong Lee was driving home with his family in 2006 when he says his Toyota Camry went out of control.

Driving in St. Paul, Minnesota, he approached an intersection after leaving I-94 and pumped the brakes. Moving between 70 to 90 mph, Lee’s car struck two other vehicles, killing a 33-year old father and his 10-year-old son instantly.

Another passenger, a 6-year-old girl was left a paraplegic and later died from her injuries.

Lee had always maintained that he did everything within his power to try and stop the runaway Camry, but a jury convicted him of vehicular homicide and he is currently serving eight years in prison.

His 1996 Toyota Camry is not included in the present recall of vehicles.

Attorney Bob Hilliard (IB Partner), of Hilliard Munoz Guerra LLP, tells CNN that he is passionate about getting Lee out of prison and suing Toyota.

Referring to the evidence he says “It was all smoke and mirrors.” Hilliard says even the relative of the people who died are now in support of Lee.

Quincy Adams who lost his son in the crash tells KARE-TV “I feel that the boy [Koua Fong Lee] is innocent.”

Mr. Lee was driving home from Sunday services with his pregnant wife, his father, daughter, niece and brother in his 1996 Toyota Camry at the time of the crash.

NHTSA Complaints

A number of accident cases are now being revisited since Toyota announced its worldwide recall of 10 million vehicles because of sudden acceleration.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has 526 incidents listed for the 1996 Toyota Camry, reports CNN with air bags, tires, steering and visibility, and vehicle speed control, among them.

  • An October 2009 report states that a driver traveling 65 mph couldn’t stop when she braked. “By putting extreme pressure on the brake, she was able to pull over and turned off vehicle.”

  • July 26, 2003 a Toyota Camry lurched forward while waiting at a red light. The car went into the path of an oncoming car and a motorcycle. The motorcyclist died five years later from injuries.

  • February 1998, a complaint says that the “vehicle failed to respond when the accelerator was depressed.”

Lee’s attorney, Brent Schaefer, has plans to retest the Camry which remains in an impound lot.

At his trial, two experts said the throttle was found open at 15 percent, which is an unusual number but was attributed to the crash. The prosecutor said the brakes were operating properly and there were no problems with the acceleration.

Recall Update

So far more than 5 million Toyota and Lexus models have been recalled for unintended acceleration and trapped accelerator pedals.

In January, another 2.3 million cars were recalled for the same reason including the 2008-2010 Highlanders and the 2009-2010 Corollas, Venzas and Matrixes. Recalls began last September and include the Camry, Avalon, Prius, Tacoma, Tundra, ES 350 and IS 250 and 350.

Add the 2010 Prius hybrid, the 2010 Lexus HS 250h, and 8,000 four-wheel drive Tacoma pickups to the latest models recalled.

Consumer Affairs list the recalls going back as far as 2004.

Litigation and Class-Actions

IB News reported last month that class-action status is being sought in at least a dozen lawsuits. The latest is brought on behalf of the Pena family of Texas who owned a runaway Avalon, made by Toyota.

Attorney Hilliard, believes the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Corpus Christi, will include owners of all types of Toyotas from all over Texas.

And Beasley Allen (IB Partner,) an Alabama law firm, recently announced it is filing suit in Florida on behalf of more than 5 million Toyota owners affected by the recall. The complaint will allege breach of warranty, fraudulent concealment, breach of covenant of good faith, among other complaints.

In addition to class-action lawsuits, Toyota is facing individual lawsuits such as the Houston plaintiff who alleges his wife was killed last December in her accelerating 2009 Toyota. #


2 Comments

Posted by Anthony J. Iacono
Thursday, March 04, 2010 1:24 AM EST

On 26 December 2009, I drove my 2004 Toyota Camry, VIN number 4T1BE32K64U810737 with eighty–eight thousand miles on the odometer to the United States Post Office in Manassas, Virginia. Pulling into a parking space in front of the United States Post Office, at a speed of approximately 5 miles per hour and with four to five feet left before stopping, I had an un-commanded acceleration and the brakes could not stop the forward movement. The car jumped the sidewalk over and bushes and drove into the window and corner of the U S Post Office building. The engine continued to race with only the building holding the car from moving further. While moving the transmission lever from Drive to Park, the engine continued to race and the doors did not unlock automatically. Turning the ignition key to off position was the only solution to stopping the racing engine and ensuing smoke. I was entombed. As the Emergency Medical Team removed me from the car, I saw that the floor mat was in no way encroaching on the accelerator pedal. Because of the speed, the air bags did not deploy and the windshield was still in tack. I explained to the officers at the site what had occurred and a police report was filed with no charges filled against me. I was taken to the local hospital for examination and was subsequently released with neck and back pain and disbelief as to what had happened. The car was totaled.

Anonymous User
Posted by ryan
Tuesday, March 09, 2010 12:43 PM EST

The toyotas being recalled all have one thing in common, elctronic throttle control. This means that the engine's computer(ECM) opens the throttle plate electronically based on throttle pedal position sensor inputs.

The 1996 camry in question does not have electronic throttle control, it uses a manual throttle cable that attatches the throttle pedal to the throttle plate.

The current issues that toyota is having with newer cars does not affect this case, as i'm sure anybody with a technical backround in automotive will clearly conclude.

Comments for this article are closed.

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