Taking On Toyota

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Toyota’s troubles with sudden acceleration have given rise to litigation seeking to hold the carmaker accountable. Pursuing these cases in the courtroom will require a smart strategy and the willingness to face a tough, well-financed defendant.

In August 2009, 911 operators in San Diego received a panicked call: “We’re in trouble . . . There’s no brakes—end freeway half mile!” The call came from Chris LaStrella, a passenger in a Lexus that was being driven by his brother in law, Mark Saylor, a California highway patrolman.

The car had suddenly accelerated to 120 mph, and Saylor couldn’t stop it. Moments later, it struck another car, careened into an embankment, plummeted into a dry riverbed, and erupted in flames, killing LaStrella, Saylor, Saylor’s wife, and the Saylors’ 13 year old daughter. Investigators found floor mats intended for a different model in the car and learned that its previous owner had reported that the accelerator became stuck.1

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