(PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla.) A Florida man who sustained catastrophic injuries that rendered him a quadriplegic when his 2002 Toyota Camry unexpectedly went out of control can present evidence in court that Toyota Motor Corporation and other defendants knew that the brake override and Electronic Throttle Control System (ETCS) were defective, resulting in unintended accelerations that have caused numerous deaths and injuries, a Florida Circuit Court ruled on Monday.
“The Toyota defendants misleadingly promised safety and trust, while at the same time purposely concealed evidence of electronic defects in its vehicles from the American public, and hid its own knowledge of an alarming number of incidents of unintended accelerations, deaths and injuries,” said Theodore J. Leopold, of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, who represents Bret Quinlan, in his products liability action against Toyota Motor Corporation, Toyota Manufacturing Motor, Toyota Motor North American, Inc., Toyota Motor Sales USA, Inc., and King Automotive Management, LLC.
On July 17, 2011, Quinlan was driving the U.S.-manufactured Camry on Florida State Road 551 when the vehicle suddenly went out of control and ran into a building in Orlando, Fla. As a result, Quinlan suffered permanent, catastrophic injuries, including spine and spinal cord damage that resulted in his becoming quadriplegic.
Quinlan’s original complaint, filed against the defendants in September 2012 in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, cited unintended acceleration as a possible cause of the accident and also blamed defective spot welding during the manufacturing and assembly process that resulted in a failure of the floor pan structure. Due to Toyota’s publicly denying that its vehicles were susceptible to problems of unintended acceleration, those allegations were dropped from an amended complaint.
However, in March 2014, Toyota entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the United States Department of Justice in which the company admitted that it mislead consumers by concealing and making deceptive statements about safety issues affecting its vehicles that caused types of unintended acceleration. Toyota subsequently agreed to pay a $1.2 billion financial penalty – to date the largest imposed on a motor vehicle manufacturer. Also, recently many damaging Toyota documents have come to light during the course of unintended acceleration jury trials that have cast a dark shadow on Toyota’s actions in terms of what they knew, when they knew, and issues of ETCS defects.
Additionally, after removing the unintended acceleration allegation from his complaint, Quinlan received notice that the Camry was included in a class action lawsuit against Toyota based on the ETCS defect. Further discovery found Toyota had received more than 37,900 complaints concerning the ETCS, which have been installed in Toyota-brand vehicles sold in the United States since 1998.
In granting Quinlan’s third amended complaint, the Circuit Court for the 15th Judicial Circuit, paved the way for evidence of unintended acceleration as a cause of Quinlan’s devastating accident to be brought to trial before a jury. A trial date has not yet been set. Quinlan is seeking compensatory damages resulting from the accident and will shortly be moving for punitive damages from all of the Toyota defendants.
In addition to Leopold, who has been litigating product liability cases nationwide for more than 20 years, Quinlan is represented by Leslie M. Kroeger and Adam J. Langino, both of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC.
Third Amended Complaint - August 4, 2014