Does the recent NASA report spell trouble for the plaintiffs’ attorneys in the Toyota Unintended Acceleration Litigation?
No. Electronic malfunction was not the sole theory relied upon by victims of unintended acceleration. The strategy in most product defect litigation is (1) identify an aspect of the products design that caused the injury; and (2) show that there was a reasonably feasible alternative design that would have prevented the injury. If the victims can prove those two things, then the product was defective.
Here, Toyota has identified at least two known aspects of the vehicle’s design that can cause SUA: (1) floor mat interference with the throttle pedal; and (2) “sticky” throttle pedals. Safety advocates, industry experts, and (yes) plaintiffs in Toyota suits have identified a third: electronic malfunction.
All three of the possible design issues could have been prevented by Toyota installing a brake override system. Regardless of which design problem is ultimately proven responsible for SUA, the brake override system solves the problem.
Toyota could have implemented a brake override system for less than $1 per vehicle, but it didn’t.