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Toyota told to pay $13M to victims of car accident due to defect

A legal drama surrounding a deadly car accident took another turn on Feb. 3, when a jury in Minnesota ruled that a defective product in a Toyota involved in the crash was mostly to blame for the deaths of three people. The jury ordered Toyota to pay more than $13 million in damages, both to the victims and to the man once put in prison for causing the collision.

The driver was on an interstate ramp when his 1996 Toyota Camry crashed into another car, killing the three victims, including two children. He was convicted of vehicular manslaughter and sentenced to prison.

Later, Toyota recalled millions of vehicles due to a defect that sometimes caused sudden, uncontrollable acceleration. The cause of this defect is still unknown. Theories have included problems with the floor mats, pulleys on the accelerator, on-board computers or the electrical system.

Claiming a defect in his Camry caused the tragic accident, the man appealed his sentence and was released after spending two years behind bars. Then he sued Toyota, saying the company created a defective product that led to the car accident.

At the end of trial, the jury found Toyota to be 60 percent liable for the crash, reserving 40 percent for the driver. Besides $11 million in damages to the victims, the jury ordered Toyota to pay $750,000 to the wrongfully convicted driver, and $1.69 million to his family.

An auto defect can go undetected until it causes a huge accident. Drivers in Pennsylvania rely on automakers to make cars and trucks that perform as promised and are reasonably safe. When they are not, the consequences can be terrible.

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