— In what can only be described as a major slap-down to Toyota, a U.S. District judge said Toyota must abide by a jury ruling that says an accelerator defect caused a deadly 2006 crash.
The case involved Koua Fong Lee, who was driving a 1996 Toyota Camry returning from church with his family in the Camry. Lee argued the car suddenly accelerated out of control and headed for an intersection. The Camry slammed into the rear of a 1995 Oldsmobile Ciera occupied by six people.
In the Ciera was Javis Trice-Adams and his son, Javis Adams, Jr., who both died in the crash. Another passenger, 6-year-old Devyn Bolton, was paralyzed in the crash and died 16 months later. Ciera passengers Jassmine Adams and Quincy Ray Adams were seriously injured.
Koua Fong Lee claimed the Camry accelerated out of control and no matter what he tried, the car wouldn't stop until it hit the Ciera. However, Lee was sentenced to eight years in prison for criminal vehicular homicide.
In August 2010, Lee was released from prison after a new trial showed a design defect in the Toyota caused the Camry to experience an unintended acceleration event. Then in February 2014, a jury awarded a total of $11.4 million to those affected by the crash.
Toyota demanded a new trial and declared there was no evidence a design defect existed in the Camry Mr. Lee was driving.
In a 67-page ruling, Judge Ann Montgomery said "the jury discharged their duties diligently and with care. The verdict did not result in a miscarriage of justice warranting a new trial."
The judge also took special note of one of the survivors in the Oldsmobile Ciera.
"The crash occurred at a fragile time in her young life, as a 12-year old girl navigating the tribulations of adolescence. Losing family members in such a manner is incomprehensible and was undoubtedly a life-altering event for Jassmine Adams. The crash forces crumpled the Ciera, trapping Jassmine Adams inside with her dead and dying family members." - Judge Ann Montgomery
Toyota might have been better to have left the case alone because not only did the judge rule against the automaker, she increased the original award to more than $14 million.
"The tragedy that cuts the deepest is a innocent man sat in prison for over two years while a car company, knowing he was innocent, continued to make billions while cowardly refusing to admit the truth of the defect." - Attorney Bob Hilliard
Toyota could appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals but hasn't said if it will do so.