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Toyota Lawsuit: Sudden Unintended Acceleration

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Los Angeles, CAA class action lawsuit filed against Toyota Motor Corporation on November 5, 2009 alleges that owners of some Toyota and Lexus vehicles have "experienced instances of unintended acceleration" in their vehicles. According to just-auto.com, lawyers involved in the Toyota class action lawsuit say that the problem is not, as Toyota claims, related to improperly sized floor mats.

The lawsuit alleges that the unintended acceleration episodes are linked to an electronic throttle control system known as the ETCS-i. Plaintiffs say that vehicles equipped with this system should also be equipped with a failsafe measure to disconnect the electronic throttle control, allowing the driver to stop the vehicle safely. The plaintiffs also claim that Toyota Motor Corporation should have provided drivers with the means to "automatically reduce the engine to idle when the brakes are being applied while the throttle is in an open position."

On November 8, the Los Angeles Times reported that more than 1000 Toyota and Lexus owners since 2001 have experienced instances where their cars suddenly accelerated on their own. The article notes that unintended acceleration has caused 15 deaths since 2002—more than caused by any other automaker. Eight investigations were opened into the issue of sudden acceleration, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) closed six of these investigations without finding any defects. Only 85,000 vehicles were recalled.

However, the Los Angeles Times reports that the NHTSA threw out complaints from Toyota and Lexus drivers for any number of reasons—if they did not name possible causes of the acceleration, or if the unintended acceleration lasted more than a few seconds, or if drivers were unable use their brakes to stop the vehicle from accelerating. The NHTSA explained that brake failure was not related to problem at hand, because its official position was that braking systems will always surmount an engine problem.

However, the braking system will not always work when sudden acceleration throws the throttle wide open.

The Times cites a 2003 investigation during which all but one out of 37 complaints were dismissed; the investigation was halted due to lack of data indicating a defect trend.

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READER COMMENTS

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"Two weeks ago I had a car accident due to sudden unintended acceleration and loss of steering in a 2004 Lexus es330. I am the only owner of the car and I had it serviced regularly. I complained about the steering problems to two dealerships. The first of which told me they had fixed the problem, the second of which assured me they had not. Issues persisted beyond the second dealership's 'fix' however the night of my accident I lost complete control of my car, it sped across 7 lanes of a highway, including over a median before I wound up facing the wrong way in the highway and was hit head on by another driver who didn't even have time to slam on her brakes. I was not injured, but my car is totaled. Both of my parents also have Lexuses, and both models were noted to have similar issues. My mother recently received a letter indicating her car was being recalled, but that she would have to wait for the repair as Toyota did not have enough parts at the current time."

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