Product Liability,H. Scott Bates
On Sept. 29, 2009, Toyota recalled several Toyota and Lexus vehicles after receiving 2000 reports of unintended acceleration that led to at least 19 deaths. Models involved in the Toyota recall include the following:
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigated Lexus and Toyota unintended acceleration problems for several years before the recall was issued. Problems with the Toyota and Lexus models garnered widespread attention after a California accident involving a 2009 Lexus ES 350 claimed the life of a highway patrol officer and several members of his family. The NHTSA investigated the car crash and found that the floor mat in the car was intended for use in a Lexus SUV rather than a sedan. The NHTSA also discovered that the design of the accelerator may have increased the chances of unwanted acceleration because the pedal could become entrapped by the floor mat.
At the time of the Sept. Toyota recall, the car company and the NHTSA had not discovered the cause of the unwanted acceleration or a way to repair the defect. Toyota tried to convey that the floor mat was the only cause of the unwanted acceleration and urged owners to remove the drivers’ side floor mat. Shortly after the recall, Toyota released a statement saying that cars with properly secured and compatible floor mats were not defective.
However, on Nov. 4, 2009, the NHTSA countered Toyota’s statement with their own notice which said that the recalled Toyota and Lexus vehicles contained an “underlying defect” involving the gas pedal and the driver’s foot well. Toyota responded by stating that they did not intend to mislead consumers and were working on ways to fix the unwanted acceleration problem.
Then, in January of 2010, Toyota announced another recall of 2.3 million vehicles to correct a problem of a sticking accelerator. Separate from the September recall, the January Toyota recall was issued to correct unwanted acceleration problems, regardless of whether the vehicle contained a floor mat. According to the Toyota recall, the gas pedals could become difficult to press, slower to return or stuck in a depressed position.
Vehicles cited in the January Toyota recall include the following:
Several of these vehicles are subject to both Toyota recalls.
Toyota owners who experience problems with their gas pedals should drive their vehicles to a safe location, shut off the engine and contact their local Toyota dealer for further assistance. The car company has designed a solution to eliminate the excess friction that can cause the pedal to stick.