Unintentional Losses…

How many times have we seen car ads that boast about this feature…?  From zero to 60 mph in a matter of seconds!

This type of maneuvering has been proudly embraced by car manufacturers for years as a top selling point over other makes and models. But truth be told, no other car manufacturer has anything that surpasses the capabilities of a Toyota Camry! Certain model year Camrys can go from zero to ninety in as much time and they have a track record to prove it.

I’m just speculating but based on this news report from a recent class action lawsuit in a Minneapolis courtroom which has garnered much attention nationwide, exoneree, Koua Fong Lee, former owner of a 1996 Toyota Camry along with the family of the deceased victims of an Oldsmobile Ciera, would probably agree that this is not a factor to be celebrated. In fact, they have asked Toyota, Corporation to fix a serious problem of unintentional acceleration due to issues with the car’s electronic throttle mechanism so that it does not cause harm to any more lives.

“Lee was driving his pregnant wife, their 4-year-old daughter, and his father and brother home on June 10, 2006, when he exited Interstate 94. As his Camry accelerated, he sideswiped one car before hitting an Oldsmobile Ciera. Experts said Lee’s car was traveling between 76 and 91 miles per hour when it struck the Ciera, killing its driver, Javis Trice-Adams, 33, and his 9-year-old son, Javis Adams Jr. Trice-Adams’ niece Devyn Bolton, 7, was paralyzed and died 16 months later. The three who died were “complete innocents,” said attorney Bill Markovits, who is representing the Trice-Adams family. “We ask you to hold Toyota fully liable,” he said.”  Star Tribune, Jan. 8, 2015

Despite numerous other drivers of the same make of Camry, who have come forward because of experiencing sudden unintentional acceleration-the same issue that Lee insists caused his crash, Toyota stands by its assertion that the fatal crash in 2008 that killed three people and sent Lee to prison for 2.5 years, was solely due to driver error. Part of their argument during the recent hearing states that Lee was an inexperienced driver and that he had mistaken the gas pedal for the brake pedal. They also argued that his 1996 model was not involved in a future recall event that dealt with the very problem he experienced.

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Lee’s 1996 Toyota Camry. Photo courtesy of Star Tribune, Mpls, MN 

“Lee was convicted of criminal vehicular homicide and sentenced to eight years in prison in 2007. A massive recall of newer Toyota models because of problems with sudden acceleration, starting in the fall of 2009, prompted attorneys to reopen Lee’s case. Ramsey County prosecutors dismissed the charges against him in 2010. The 1996 Camry was not among the vehicles recalled. Lee and four family members who were passengers in the Camry joined with family members from the Oldsmobile in a suit against Toyota.” Star Tribune, Feb. 4, 2015

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Koua Fong Lee at a press conference in Mpls following a jury verdict. Photo courtesy of the Star Tribune, Mpls, MN

“Trembling as he spoke, and occasionally lifting a tissue to his face, Lee said, “I tried to rebuild my life, but it is very difficult to move on. I am very sad. I want to apologize to the other families” who had members killed or injured. “Every day I think about that accident,” he said, appearing to be on the verge of tears. “Many lives lost.” Star Tribune, Jan. 10, 2015.

“Toyota’s attorneys appeared to be caught off guard. Driver Koua Fong Lee lost control of his 1996 Camry, said his attorney Bob Hilliard, because each time he tapped the gas pedal on the long exit ramp off eastbound Interstate 94 at Snelling Avenue, the car accelerated.” Star Tribune, Jan. 29, 2015

This week’s outcome:

“Toyota Motor Corp. must pay $10.9 million in damages for the high-speed crash in St. Paul that cost the lives of three people and sent another man to prison, a federal jury decided Tuesday. Jurors in the Toyota liability trial found the world’s largest auto company 60 percent responsible for a 2006 crash that also sent a St. Paul man to prison for 2½ years. They found Koua Fong Lee, driver of the 1996 Toyota Camry that crashed into a stopped car at the top of an Interstate 94 exit, 40 percent responsible.” Star Tribune, Feb. 4, 2015

My thoughts drift between deep empathy for both families involved in this terrible incident and what the answer is, as to the appropriate responsibility and duty of the nation’s largest automobile company. Personally, I had hoped that Toyota would have seen a clear and evident problem with their product, and that precious lives are still being destroyed because of it. It would have been prudent for them to take a more compassionate approach. They should have shown the world that their company is based on the highest standard of integrity, by putting their funds towards more in-depth research to get to the bottom of this issue rather than pay multiple attorneys to blame the victims.

Honestly, I believe that what will end up happening is that enough people will feel the same way as I and will seriously consider their next car purchase with this lawsuit in mind. Of course, there will be those who stand by Toyota no matter what because they like the product, but I think that in the long run, Toyota may have already caused their own demise which will likely affect their bottom line as well as their reliability, not to mention their unintentional loss of integrity.

Vroom  Vrooooooooooooooooooooooooooooom…………                                                                                                                 

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18 thoughts on “Unintentional Losses…

  1. Jerry Steinberg

    The following was sent to Toyota on January 20, 2015:

    How convenient for you! You build vehicles that have a major safety defect that causes sudden unintended acceleration (and renders the brake pedal completely useless), resulting in thousands of them crashing, and hundreds of people being injured and killed, and you:

    1) Delay by denying that there was a problem. Then, when you could no longer claim that there was no problem,

    2) Delay further by claiming that it was driver error that caused all those Toyotas to crash. Then, when it was proven that driver error was not the cause of all those crashes,

    3) Delay even further by claiming that all the crashing Toyotas were the fault of floor mats interfering with the accelerator pedals. (My Camry had no additional floor mats.)

    4) Finally, when it was proven that floor mats weren’t the cause of the crashes, you delayed even further again by claiming that it was due to sticky accelerators.

    What was your next planned move? To claim that evil spirits had taken control of some Toyota vehicles?

    All of the above tactics delayed — for many, many years — any further investigation into the problem, and resulted in thousands of vehicles being written off and recycled, not to forget the hundreds of additional injuries and deaths. Not only did your numerous delays put more Toyota owners (and their friends and family members) at risk, you put every person sharing the roads (and sidewalks, and shopping malls, etc.) at risk.

    Now that those vehicles are no longer available for further inspection, you try to use that as an excuse and say that nothing can be done. You don’t even call it a “crash” or an “accident”; you dismiss it by calling it an “incident”! I was knocked unconscious. My finger was broken and required surgery. The brain injury caused what appears to be permanent damage, considering that, even after eight years, I am still suffering memory loss, drastically reduced and interrupted sleep (which results in increased anxiety, irritability and impatience), and bouts of severe depression. I am experiencing continued pain and stiffness in my finger — especially when it’s cold. If my dear wife of twenty-six years divorces me because of all that and the behaviours caused by those conditions, I will hold you responsible for that, as well.

    And to think that — over the years, I had advised numerous friends, co-workers, and relatives to buy Toyota/Lexus products for their quality and safety.

    My wife and I have owned several Toyotas over the years and were quite pleased with them, until my 2003 Camry unexpectedly accelerated and crashed into a roadside ditch — despite my depressing the brake pedal with all my might.

    We are thinking of buying a new minivan or SUV in the near future, but due to Toyota’s treatment of me — and countless other Toyota customers — we will NOT be buying any more Toyota products, and I will now advise my friends, co-workers, and relatives NOT to buy any product made by Toyota.

    Before I go to the trouble of hiring several lawyers and suing Toyota for damages, costs, and pain and suffering — including insurance deductibles and increased premiums, ambulance charges, medical and physiotherapy bills (including travel to and from appointments) and prescriptions, time lost from work, replacing my Camry, and pain and suffering that continues to this day (including loss of sleep, pain in my hand, depression, memory loss, mood swings, etc.), I am considering making large signs (“My Toyota tried to kill me!” and “Toyota constructs dangerous vehicles and lies!”), and marching in front of Toyota and Lexus dealers throughout British Columbia (and perhaps Washington State, as well). If I choose to do that, I will also contact major and minor media outlets in Canada, the USA, Europe, Australia, Asia, South America, etc. (radio, television, newspapers, magazines, etc.), and put the word — with photos and video — on various social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, Reddit, Snapchat, Tumblr, StumbleUpon, etc.), and numerous blogs.

    “…Toyota confronted a public safety emergency as if it were a simple public relations problem. And they mounted this cover-up despite widely-documented incidents, and even tragic accidents,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, said announcing the settlement on March 19.” (National Post, April 10, 2014)

    Toyota “put sales over safety and profit over principle,” according to FBI Assistant Director George Venizelos. “The disregard Toyota had for the safety of the public is outrageous,” Venizelos said. “Not only did Toyota fail to recall cars with problem parts, they continued to manufacture new cars with the same parts they already knew were deadly. When media reports arose of Toyota hiding defects, they emphatically denied what they knew was true, assuring consumers that their cars were safe and reliable… More than speeding cars or a major fine, the ultimate tragedy has been the unwitting consumers who died behind the wheel of Toyota vehicles.” (ABC News, March 19, 2014)

    The way I see it, car manufacturers have two main responsibilities:

    1) Build the safest and most reliable vehicles possible.

    2) When a defect is discovered, report it to the appropriate authorities and recall all affected vehicles to fix the defect immediately.

    For the most part, you fulfilled the first duty for many years, but when your cars started accelerating unexpectedly and crashing, you failed miserably at the second obligation.

    The longer you ignore me and delay action, the angrier and more determined I become.

    I trust that the foregoing makes my position in this matter clear.

    Jerry Steinberg

    Reply
    1. Joan Treppa

      Thank you Jerry for posting this. I will forward it to my colleagues who are still actively seeking to hold Toyota accountable. In my piece, I did not mention the fact that I too experienced this harrowing experience in my 1999 Camry before I abandoned it. That decision was based on my desire to give full attention to the plaintiffs in this recent lawsuit and my experience was without injury or harm to myself or anyone else. I am very sorry for your devastating experience and my heart goes out to both you and your family. I know that my family will no longer consider purchasing Toyota products ever again.

      Reply
      1. Jerry Steinberg

        Thank you so much for all you do, Joan.

        You and I dodged the bullet — especially compared with the very unfortunate people who were seriously injured, or killed, or lost loved ones due to Toyota’s defects, denials, diversions, and delays.

        Do you still live in Blaine, WA? I live in South Surrey, BC. We’re almost neighbors!

        Jerry

        Reply
      2. Jerry Steinberg

        Here’s what Toyota Canada sent me regarding my issue:

        >> “Dear Mr. Steinberg: >> >> Re: VIN JTEDC3EH##2011900 (I have replaced two characters with #s) >> >> Thank you for your recent email to Toyota Canada Inc. (“TCI”) regarding an incident that occurred on 11/28/2006 10:00 AM and involving the above-captioned vehicle. You have advised that, at that time, you experienced an unintended acceleration. >> >> Mr. Steinberg, in order for TCI to respond to your concerns, Toyota does require an opportunity to inspect your vehicle to help us understand the condition reported by you. In this case, you explained your vehicle was written off and was no longer available. >> >> Our customers’ satisfaction and confidence in the quality of our vehicles is important to Toyota and we do want the opportunity to inspect your vehicle and address your concerns. We trust you understand, however, that, in the absence of a vehicle inspection, Toyota is unable to comment on or respond to your concerns. >> >> Thank you again for contacting our office. We trust that the foregoing serves to clarify our position in this matter. >> >> Yours truly, >> >> Laurence Vertueux >> Escalated Case Consultant >> Customer Interaction Centre >> Customer Support and Service Operations Department >> Toyota Canada Inc. >> Case # 2278513”

        I am not pleased!

        Feel free to give your colleagues my e-ddress.

        Jerry

        Reply
  2. Pingback: Another Camry Suddenly Accelerates and Loses Braking Power - A Road to Freedom

  3. Route 44 Toyota Sold Me A Lemon!

    Jerry, Thank you for sharing such a traumatic experience.
    I posted it on my blog & facebook pages.
    Toyota depends on the silence of its victims! I hope you won’t allow that in your case.

    My brand new Prius experienced problems, with the final being BRAKE FAILURE [within 3 weeks]. My life is SIMPLE!

    I refused the drive a TOYOTA PRIUS with NO BRAKES! left it on the Dealer’s property.
    TOYOTA has invested many times the cost of the vehicle attempting to prove I was impaired or have dementia. Dilly, Dally, Delay, Stall & Bill ‘Em is TOYOTA’s tactic.

    I hope you have also sent a copy of your letter to TOYOTA INDEPENDENT MONITOR:

    David N. Kelley, Esq.
    Independent Monitor
    Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP
    80 Pine Street
    New York, NY 10005-1702

    It’s a truly pathetic commentary that TOYOTA has boasted about its cost-savings from avoiding RECALLS!

    Please keep sharing your experience so that others remain SAFE!

    Jessie

    Reply
    1. Jerry Steinberg

      How preposterous that Toyota would accuse Toyota drivers of “driver error” — hitting the accelerator instead of the brake pedal!

      In essence, what they are saying is that Toyota drivers are stupid — more stupid than Honda drivers, Chevrolet drivers, BMW drivers, Dodge drivers, etc.

      Jerry

      Reply
      1. Joan Treppa

        That is exactly what they are saying to all of us. It was a last ditch effort to avoid paying but it did not work. As far as I am concerned, Toyota is not paying what they should but they did not get off scott free this time and I believe that this will only open the doors for more lawsuits. Thanks Jerry.

        Reply
  4. Route 44 Toyota Sold Me A Lemon!

    If you go to my blog, Jerry, you’ll find links to some of the folks who have been blogging about TOYOTA on the right side. [Most have ‘comment moderation’ to avoid the TOYOTA SHILLS posting bogus information.]

    Joan does a marvelous job focusing in a somewhat different direction.

    Re: TOYOTA
    Some are on facebook [Parris Boyd, Charlene Blake, Route 44 Toyota Sold Me A Lemon] or twitter.
    You might consider setting up your own sites to speak out.

    Reply
  5. CharleneBlake

    Toyota and Lexus are #1 in cases of sudden unintended acceleration and FORD is #2. The current unintended acceleration plaguing newer vehicles is the electronically-induced type. The engine throttle control systems depend on computer software to command them. Sometimes glitches occur…like in some of your other electronic devices…which can cause the command to be different than what you desire. The evidence of the glitch is often undetectable after the vehicle is restarted. Unfortunately, the EDR (black box) is not always accurate as shown by expert Dr. Antony Anderson in his analysis of a 2012 Toyota Highlander. The EDR results indicated the driver was not braking when she was doing so. The EDR results are inconsistent.

    The key to avoiding a horrific crash during a SUA event is whether or not the vehicle has an effective fail-safe in the event a glitch occurs. If it does not, as in the case of the glitch-prone Toyota ETCS-i, then the vehicle may become a runaway with an ineffective means to stop it. Unfortunately, the safety standards aren’t as strict in automobiles as they are in airplanes. Some manufacturers have more effective fail-safes than others. In the case of Toyota, an embedded software expert, Michael Barr (see Oklahoma Bookout vs. Toyota court case involving a 2005 Camry) found that an electronic glitch could induce a SUA event. Another expert, Dr. Henning Leidecker, found that a SUA event could also be triggered by “tin whisker” formation, particularly in 2002-2006 Toyota Camry vehicles.

    SUA events have been DEADLY for vehicle occupants as well as pedestrians and people in storefronts, buildings, and even homes. The numbers of such crashes are ever-increasing with the advent of the very complex ELECTRONIC throttle control systems.

    With the increase in such serious vehicle crashes, there is a concerted effort to show driver “pedal misapplication” or a “medical condition” or some other reason for the incident…anything other than a vehicle defect. Investigators aren’t scrutinizing the buggy electronic throttle control software or other conditions that can elicit a terrifying sudden unintended acceleration incident. They usually just examine the *mechanical* causes which tend to be just red herrings in these cases. Investigators simply don’t have the expertise to find such electronic glitches. In fact, the staff at the NHTSA, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, do not have this very specialized training!

    Think of it…the next step in electronically-controlled vehicles seems to be so-called “self-driving cars.” Do YOU want to be in a such a vehicle when there is no evidence that strict safety standards, particularly in the throttle control system’s software, have been adhered to? Will you just BLINDLY trust the automaker (criminally-investigated and nearly-prosecuted Toyota and soon-to-be GM and others?) to come through for you and your family’s safety *on its own*?

    A recently published Huffington Post article by Jonathan Handel,
    How Do We Know Driverless Cars Are Safe? Google Says ‘Trust Us’
    Posted: 07/01/2014 7:23 pm EDT Updated: 07/02/2014 1:48 pm EDT speaks to these very issues and poses tough questions about Google’s “driverless” vehicles. Educate yourself carefully before you put your faith in automakers who have knowingly lied to their customers and the government for decades. Study the issue of vehicle electronic sudden unintended acceleration and ask WHY we aren’t seeing it addressed publicly. WHY is blame placed on the driver with little more than speculation about which pedal was used or with little more than an assumption on medical condition. This is being done *even when the drivers steadfastly cite a VEHICLE PROBLEM as the cause of the crash. Absence of proof is not proof of absence of a serious ELECTRONIC computer glitch or other electronically-caused SUA.

    Charlene Blake

    Reply
  6. CharleneBlake

    Jeep vehicles are WELL-KNOWN in terms of sudden unintended acceleration. Ask ANY car wash business. As a matter of fact, the Car Wash Association has a formal LIST of most likely vehicles to do this. Jeeps often TAKE OFF while inside these car washes. Carol lives on a lake and the humid conditions may well be connected.

    There’s a BIG hidden secret in the auto industry…it’s called ELECTRONIC sudden unintended acceleration! I know…you thought that was just about FLOOR MATS and sticky pedals, or “driver error,” right? That’s certainly what TOYOTA would like you to continue to believe, BUT DON’T!

    These ultra-complex new engines are completely computer driven. Software is needed to control the throttle system. You THINK you are giving gas when you press the accelerator, but you are only SUGGESTING this to the computer. In electronic SUA cases, the throttle software may be glitch-prone and NOT do as you wish.

    What happens then? Well, the glitch may (and has for countless SUA victims) result in an OPEN THROTTLE situation. The brakes become INEFFECTIVE in these situations and crashes into storefronts, buildings, and homes have resulted.

    What does the automaker say? They hook the vehicles up to the computer and declare NOTHING WRONG! They cite the EDR which has erroneous data and say YOU were NOT braking. They point the finger at you based on AGE, GENDER, MEDICAL history, prescription meds, etc. YOU name it, they’ve TRIED it!

    Get the picture? And you THOUGHT the GM issue was big? Think again! This cover-up of ELECTRONIC SUA is scandalous and very well-orchestrated.

    Why even a WHISTLEBLOWER has been legally harassed by Toyota as it does NOT want her Toyota internal docs posted online anymore. The automaker wants to intimidate and SILENCE her. It doesn’t want the PUBLIC involved, for goodness sake!

    Reply

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