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Toyota Apologizes to Families of Fatal Accident Victims

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on February 24, 2010 2:45 PM

Toyota has spoken. And they've spoken quite apologetically. But will apologies be enough for the victims of the families left behind in the wake of Toyota's fatal car accidents?

This morning, the head of Toyota Motor Corp. and grandson of the company's namesake, Akio Toyoda, apologized on behalf of Toyota in his testimony before Congress.

He also claimed that he was "absolutely confident" about the fact that there was no design flaw in Toyota's electronic throttle control system. This statement came in light of several concerns and criticisms, pegging the Toyota electronic throttle system as the culprit behind the sudden acceleration. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood expressed such concern earlier where he told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that the recalled vehicles aren't safe unless they receive the required repairs. He added that it was as yet undetermined whether problems with the Toyota electronic throttle system were to blame. 

Defects in design are common claims in products liability cases. Generally, a defect in the design, which would render the product "unreasonably dangerous," can be the basis of a hefty financial settlement, assuming that the defect caused the injury.

In Toyota's case, their ordeal began precisely due to the fact that sudden acceleration and problems caused several fatal accidents. 

The accident which prompted the initial set of recalls last year came after a San Diego area crash where Mark Saylor, a California Highway Patrolman, and his family were killed when their Lexus essentially "ran away" with them in it. A 9-1-1 phone call revealed the fateful and frightening final moments in that Lexus, when Saylor's brother-in-law was desperately trying to find a way to stop the car.

The accident was blamed on oversized floor mats in Toyota's Lexus models, leading to the 2009 recall of 3.8 million U.S. vehicles.  

Saylor's mother-in-law will testify before Congress as well, with questions of her own for Mr. Toyoda. As the face of the Toyota tragedies, perhaps she can convey to Toyota the real impact of Toyota's safety issues. 

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