Seven auto insurance corporations will follow insurance titan Allstate in filing suit against Toyota Motor Corporation to recoup funds they paid out in claims stemming from auto accidents attributed to unintended acceleration problems in Toyota vehicles.
The insurance companies’ legal action has created a new wave of United States civil litigation rising against Toyota as the Japanese carmaker fights to move past a car safety crisis spurred by a staggering number of complaints of the company’s vehicles accelerating uncontrollably.
Sudden acceleration issues in Toyota vehicles prompted additional investigation from federal safety regulators, a string of global recalls that devastates Toyota’s top-notch reputation, and numerous congressional hearings on the matter.
Currently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking into claims that roughly 89 accident fatalities since 2000 may have resulted from sudden acceleration in Toyota and luxury Lexus vehicles.
The automaker could also face up to $10 billion in possible civil liability in the United States courts from wrongful-death, personal injury, and consumer fraud claims resulting from complaints about unintended acceleration.
The most recent litigation, which was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Thursday, makes claims related to those in other cases filed elsewhere that the Japanese automaker disregarded and even tried to hide a flaw that caused several of its engines to race out of control, and did not put in brake-override technology that could have prevented crashes.
Collectively, the seven car insurance companies are requesting minimum compensatory damages of $188,000, a pittance compared to the $3 million of losses requested by Allstate Insurance in its suit filed in October on behalf of itself and affiliated companies.
Included in the most recent insurers to bring legal actions against Toyota Motor Corp. are Motorists Mutual Insurance Company, National Surety Corporation, American Automobile Insurance Company, Ameriprise Insurance Company, American Hardware Mutual Insurance Company, Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company, and IDS Property Casualty Insurance Company.
The insurers’ lawsuits, initiated in three different filings, arrive almost two weeks following reports that Toyota would pay $10 million to dismiss legal claims made by the relatives of a California state trooper and three family members whose deadly 2009 auto accident served as one impetus for the manufacturer’s recalls.
Toyota’s recalls, which affected 5.4 million American vehicles, were announced by Toyota to repair poorly fitting floor mats that may become wedged on the gas pedal and also for accelerators that did not return back into position as designed.
By Naoto Hayashi | January 5, 2011