The litigation, filed on March 2 in San Diego County Superior Court, names Toyota Motor Corp., Toyota Motor Sales USA, other Toyota US entities and El Cajon Luxury Cars Inc., and alleges product liability and negligence. Damages sought were not specified.
It was on August 28 that Mark Saylor, an off-duty California Highway Patrol officer, and his family headed out in his Lexus ES350 on a freeway near Santee. He and his wife, daughter and brother-in-law were unprepared for what happened when the car suddenly "began to accelerate on its own," according to the terms of the lawsuit.
Trained and skilled in handling a car at high speeds, Saylor did everything possible to stop the car, but he was unable to reduce the speed of the car as it careened along the freeway, reaching speeds in excess of 120 miles per hour before colliding with a sports utility vehicle, bouncing off an embankment, rolling and bursting into flames.
All four occupants of the car were killed: Saylor and his wife Cleofe, both 45, their daughter Mahala, 13 and Cleofe's brother Chris Lastrella, 39. It was Lastrella who made the now-famous 911 call from the back seat of the speeding car. Lastrella or Saylor could be heard urging the others to "pray."
Moments later, all four were dead.
Investigators attributed the rapid acceleration to ill-fitting floor mats that entrapped and jammed the accelerator pedal. Toyota soon recalled millions of cars to address the floor mat issue. A few months later it recalled millions more, claiming that sticking accelerator pedals were the cause of the sudden acceleration.
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Fe Lastrella, the mother of Chris Lastrella and a plaintiff in the lawsuit filed on Tuesday, spoke at the congressional committee that gathered last week to look into the Toyota issue. "I'm here to speak for my four children and for the safety of the consumers through the world," Lastrella said. "You don't want another family to suffer like we are suffering."
At that same hearing, Toyota president Akio Toyoda apologized to the Saylor family as well as to Congress and all Toyota owners.