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Toyota Lawsuits by Consumers Over Sudden Acceleration of Vehicles

– Toyota Motor Corp. has failed to correct a problem with the throttle control system on some of its vehicles, causing them to suddenly accelerate, lawyers for consumers said in a lawsuit.

Los Angeles residents Seong Bae Choi and Chris Chan Park, who claim they experienced multiple instances of unintended acceleration, filed the suit as a class action on Nov. 5, seeking to represent all U.S. owners of certain Toyota and Lexus models.

Toyota last month said it would recall as many as 3.8 million vehicles including Lexus ES luxury cars, Camry sedans and Prius hybrids over a potential flaw in which floor mats shifting out of position could jam the accelerator pedal. The mats aren’t the problem, according to the plaintiff’s lawyer.

The plaintiffs claim Toyota and Lexus owners have made more than 2,000 complaints of sudden acceleration to the company and government agencies. They also allege that sudden acceleration episodes have resulted in accidents causing 16 deaths and 243 injuries.

Toyota failed to “incorporate important failsafe measures” allowing drivers to control the vehicles, the lawsuit said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Oct. 30 declined a request to investigate Lexus ES models for possible flaws related to vehicle electronics that may also cause unintended acceleration.

The plaintiffs in the California lawsuit claim that unintended acceleration episodes are linked to an electronic throttle control system called ETCS-i in these vehicles.

An initial design called for “an electronic throttle control and a redundant mechanical linkage between the gas pedal and the engine throttle control as a failsafe in the event of a sudden unintended acceleration,” according to the complaint.

This feature would disconnect the electronic throttle control and allow a driver to stop the vehicle, the plaintiffs said. The company began selling vehicles without this feature around 2001, the consumers allege in the lawsuit.

They also claim Toyota failed to include another “failsafe measure” that would “automatically reduce the engine to idle when the brakes are being applied while the throttle is in an open position,” according to the complaint.

The plaintiffs are asking for an injunction, ordering the company to recall all Toyota and Lexus vehicles equipped with ETCS-i.

On Oct. 30, in a statement posted to the Federal Register denying a request for further investigation of Lexus ES models, NHTSA said “the only defect related to vehicle speed control in the subject vehicles involved the potential for accelerator pedals to become trapped near the floor by out-of-position or inappropriate floor mat installations.”
The agency said that after interviewing the Lexus ES owner who sought a federal investigation, examining his vehicle and conducting a range of tests on drive-train and electric systems, it failed to find sufficient evidence of electronic flaws.

The case is Choi v. Toyota Motor Corp., CV 09-08143, U.S. District Court, Central District of California.

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