LOS ANGELES (Bloomberg) -- Toyota Motor Corp. knew of the danger of stuck pedals and failed to install a brake-override system in the 2006 Camry of a woman who died in a crash, a lawyer told jurors in the first fatal sudden-acceleration case to go to trial.
"Had Toyota installed a brake-override system, the vehicle would have come to a stop," Garo Mardirossian, the lawyer for the widow and son of Noriko Uno, said today in his opening statement in state court in Los Angeles.
Uno, then 66, died when her Camry sped out of control and crashed into a tree after it was hit by a car that ran a stop sign, Mardirossian said.
The jury trial is the first against Toyota over sudden, unintended acceleration that led to a death.
Toyota settled economic-loss claims by U.S. drivers after the recall of more than 10 million cars worldwide in 2009 and 2010. Lawyers for drivers valued the settlement at $1.63 billion.
The recall followed complaints of sudden, unintended acceleration, including stuck accelerator pedals and floor mats that would shift out of position and get stuck under the gas pedal.
The Uno lawsuit is the first of about 85 personal-injury and wrongful-death cases consolidated in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Mardirossian told jurors that Toyota had already installed a brake-override system in models sold in Europe.
The system forces the car's engine to idle when both the brake and gas pedal are stepped on simultaneously.
There would have been no cost to install the feature in cars sold in the United States because it required only a modification to the car's software, he said.
Uno's family is seeking $20 million in damages.
“This is not a stuck-pedal case,” Toyota’s lawyer, Vince Galvin, said in his opening statement. “It’s an alleged stuck foot case.”
Galvin said the claim that Uno’s right foot was stuck between the gas and the brake pedals, causing her to accelerate as she tried to brake with her left foot, is not possible.
Uno’s 2006 Camry was not part of the recalls and was a safe vehicle, as Toyota had advertised, the lawyer said. The car went down the wrong side of the road for 30 seconds because Uno was stepping on the gas instead of the brake, he said.
“There’s no reason an alert driver could not control this vehicle,” Galvin said.
The company in court papers has blamed the crash on Uno, saying she stepped on the gas after her car was struck.
Toyota said a brake override system would not have prevented the crash because Uno didn't apply the brakes.