It already seems as though Toyota's unintended acceleration issues came to a head a lifetime ago, but the courts won't be ready to hear the first case for a long while. Bloomberg reports that U.S. District Judge James V. Selna in California said on the court's website that the first case has tentatively been set for the first quarter of 2013.

The first case to come before the court will reportedly be the Van Alfen suit. Paul Van Alfen and a passenger were killed in a November 5, 2010 accident in which his 2008 Toyota Camry crashed into a wall after reportedly accelerating unexpectedly at an exit ramp in Wendover, Utah. The suit claims that the vehicle failed to stop even after Van Alfen slammed on the brakes. Van Alfen's wife and son were injured in the accident, and the two are among the family members suing Toyota.

The first case may not be until 2013, but courts will likely be buzzing with activity in the years ahead. Toyota recalled millions of vehicles in the United States for floor mats and sticking accelerator pedals in 2009 and 2010, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration records show that over 100 deaths could be attributable to the automaker's unintended acceleration issues. Last month, Judge Selna also ruled that Toyota owners can sue the automaker for economic losses even when no accident results form unintended acceleration, adding "a vehicle with a defect is worth less than one without a defect."



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 25 Comments
      dontneedpants
      • 3 Years Ago
      Copied and pasted from the Nitsa report: The trend is strikingly clear in the subset of these complaints involving fatalities allegedly related to UA in Toyota vehicles. (A complete discussion of this subject appears below in the section on complaints alleging fatalities.) In the ten years from 2000 until just prior to the October 2009 recall, NHTSA had received 11 such complaints involving 15 fatalities, including the four deaths in the August 2009, near San Diego, California. Of those, NHTSA has confirmed a vehicle-based cause only in the San Diego crash (pedal entrapment by an improper, unsecured floor mat). Note that this same condition was identified in an additional fatal crash examined by NHTSA that was not reported as a consumer complaint. By March 5, 2010, (i.e., in just five months) NHTSA had received an additional 39 complaints involving 45 fatalities possibly related to UA in Toyota vehicles. Half of these recently reported incidents dated back over two years, some as far back as 2001. Of the total number (75) of fatal incidents reported as of December 31, 2010, nearly a third (22) involved vehicles that were not equipped with ETC. NHTSA has obtained additional facts on many of these recently reported incidents but has not yet encountered evidence pointing to a vehicle-based cause in any of them.
      Drew
      • 3 Years Ago
      brakes > gas pedal The chances that not only did your vehicle accelerate without your consent but also the brakes go out at the same time are almost impossible. I don't buy it.
        photofill
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Drew
        I remember seeing an article and comments here on AB regarding the brakes having less power than the gas pedal. Something about when the car was at full throttle the brakes would not work as well, because of the design of the pump?
          KaiserWilhelm
          • 3 Years Ago
          @photofill
          Months ago I read an article in Motortrend where they tested the power of the brakes in a bunch of mid sized sedans, and all of them were EASILY able to overpower the engine at full throttle. There isn't a car on the road today that can overpower its brakes...at least if the brakes are in good condition.
        axiomatik
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Drew
        The brakes are assisted via the vacuum system. When the engine is racing at the redline, it generates less vacuum. The system has enough vacuum in reserve for a few pushes of the pedal (in case a vacuum line comes loose, for example), but if you pump the brakes several times, you use up all of your reserve vacuum, and then you have no vacuum-assist. Holding the brakes against the racing engine will also heat up the brakes. Overheated brakes are less effective, the pad material breaks down, the fluid can boil, the disks glaze. Finally, if you are in a car that is speeding uncontrollably, you are probably freaking out and not thinking entirely rationally. It is easy to make the wrong decision when you are in a panic.
      JP
      • 3 Years Ago
      Well, researchers of the documents released by the NHTSA, NASA and NESA shows that not enough thorough testing was completed. There are a lot of possibilities, they didn't investigate far enough and simply tossed out as a possibility. Also, Exponent was guiding those entities in the research process. We all know Exponent was hired by Toyota, who has paid them millions of dollars already. So there is a conflict of interest right there that can impact and sway the final outcome. Also, Toyota lobbied with the NHTSA years ago to have the definition of SUA changed, which caused a lot of SUA events to be excluded from the test results and complaint figures. Read this site, as well as the 51 page document included and you'll notice many of the corners the investigators cut, as well as the conflict of interests. http://www.safetyresearch.net/2011/05/23/nhtsa-nasa-reports-show-that-toyota-electronics-are-deficient/ http://www.safetyresearch.net/Library/NHTSA-NASA_Response_Final_052311.pdf
      Ant_88
      • 3 Years Ago
      "moving forward............right into a brick wall, small child, bus, tree, another toyota, sonata, nursing home, ect...u name it, we'll hit it!" lol i just wanted to poke some fun...it was too easy
      Chris
      • 3 Years Ago
      I think this is mostly driver error by the elderly and/or stupid.
        carfan
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Chris
        you just described the typical toyota driver... Good job!
      m
      • 3 Years Ago
      Ugh. Why won't this go away? The most unsafe thing Toyota did with these vehicles is marketing them directly toward the worst drivers in the world.
        Diggz
        • 3 Years Ago
        @m
        i sooooooooo agree with you "m"
        carfan
        • 3 Years Ago
        @m
        yes, the worst drivers in the world, and within that category the toyota (and other asian car) drivers are the epitome of terrible drivers. Not a very elite group that's for sure...
      Bruno Nekic
      • 3 Years Ago
      This is so old and worthless. The only problem found was if you improperly install floor mats or stack floor mats they can interfere with the accelerator, this can happen in any vehicle in the world. I still don't understand why every single vehicle in the world wasn't recalled because of floormats?!
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      Q
      • 3 Years Ago
      Just turn off the car. The car can't accelerate when the engine is turned off. What is so hard about that?
        Diggz
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Q
        if you turn the car off.. then you will loose the power braking system
          Q
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Diggz
          So its better to accelerate.... The brakes can still work in a Toyota when the car is off. Just push harder.
          M Lange
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Diggz
          Drive a car with a manual transmission? It's not that hard to press the clutch.
          Chris
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Diggz
          No power breaks doesn't mean no breaks. They still work.
      dontneedpants
      • 3 Years Ago
      Attention Autoblog: Nitsa blames only two fatal accidents on Toyota acceleration issues since the year 2000, both caused by the MISUSE of floor mats. One in 2009 (Saylor crash), and one in 2007.
      Edward
      • 3 Years Ago
      Car and Driver did a test with various vehicles. Even a hot rod Mustang couldn't overpower its brakes. This is essentially driver error. It's surprising there weren't more accidents, considering the vehicle miles driven and the number of drivers who treat their treasured rides like appliances.
      Klinkster
      • 3 Years Ago
      I will twiddle my fingers eagerly in Mr.Burns-esk style - waiting for these trials to come and go with the plantiffs and plaintiff's lawyers all losing their shirts in the process. Liars, cheats, and abusers of the American legal system should be forced into chain gangs and forced to clean up trash from their trailer parks and state parks. Or bury them at the bottom of the sea - with all the lawyers. :)
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