Toyota acceleration trial focuses on what Toyota didn't do

Posted By Craig McClellan || Aug 14, 2013

The Los Angeles Superior Court heard opening statements last week in a landmark Toyota acceleration trial. Unlike previous litigation, the argument the plaintiffs are making in this defect case is that Toyota failed to install a safety device.

The plaintiffs lost their loved one, Noriko Umo, in a 2009 accident. Umo was driving when her heel became stuck to the gas pedal. In an attempt to stop her car from accelerating, she tried, unsuccessfully, to hit the brake with her left foot. For 2,600 feet, Umo swerved around traffic, eventually hitting a telephone pole and tree. Umo lost her life because of this case of unintended acceleration.

While Toyota attempts to show that the car accident was her own fault, Umo's attorney will explain to jurors that this accident never had to happen had Toyota installed an important safety system on its 2006 Toyota Camry. Brake override systems, which force the brakes to override accelerators when both are depressed, are common in automobiles and were even installed on some of Toyota's vehicles in other countries at the time Toyota manufactured Umo's vehicle. Unfortunately, the auto manufacturer didn't think it necessary to include this safety system on U.S. cars.

Can Toyota be held accountable for failing to install this safety system? As the plaintiffs' attorney points out, "Toyota knew for many years that stuck pedals are a phenomenon with its vehicles."

The resolution of this trial, which could last through October, will set the stage for other unintended acceleration cases against Toyota and other auto manufacturers. The question at issue -- whether Toyota is responsible for not installing a safety system -- is unique among other Toyota unintended acceleration cases. Toyota has agreed to settle many of those cases for millions of dollars. In each of those cases, Toyota has refused to admit that its cars or car parts were defective.

Categories: Auto Defects
Blog Home


  • “We wouldn’t be here, in this moment of life without the kindness and professionalism of you all and how you went to bat for us! Eternally grateful!”

    - A.K.

  • “I thank you for your kindness and generosity in giving selflessly without reserve. Additionally, please extend my thanks to your staff for their diligent work and encouragement throughout the trial.”

    - A.D.

  • “We will NEVER forget what you did for us Craig. We are FOREVER GRATEFUL.”

    - K.V.

  • “We do not quite know how to verbalize or show how grateful we are to have had the distinct honor to have you represent us at truly the most critical time in our lives.”

    - S.C.

  • “It was a real honor to preside over a case with you as counsel. In my mind you represent all that is good in our profession.”

    - Judge J.

View More

Our Awards & Accolades