A Dallas County judge reduced the amount awarded to a family to $208 million after finding that manufacturer defects in the family's Lexus ES 300 caused their two children to sustain serious and permanent injuries during a rear-end collision in September 2016.
Frank Branson, an attorney for the family, told Automotive News Tuesday that because Texas caps punitive damages, the trial court was required to reduce the jury's award against Toyota Motor Corp. The total judgment against Toyota Motor Corp. and Toyota Motor Sales was lowered from $243 million.
In August a jury of nine men and women deliberated for more than eight hours before finding that the front seats in the ES 300 were unreasonably dangerous and the defendants failed to warn about those dangers, the Frank L. Branson law firm said in a statement. Jurors agreed that the actions of Toyota Motor Corp. and Toyota Motor Sales amounted to gross negligence.
The jury awarded the two children for medical care, physical impairment and mental anguish, as well as other damages, said Bloomberg in a previous report.
The family's legal team presented evidence they said showed engineering, design and structural flaws with the front seat backs of the vehicle, the law firm said in a statement. The family's lawyers argued Toyota consciously chose to protect front-seat occupants in accidents at the expense of rear-seat passengers.
The collision occurred in September 2016 while Benjamin and Kristi Reavis and their children were southbound on North Central Expressway, said the law firm. The couple's 3-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter were in child safety seats in the rear. Their car was stopped in traffic when it was hit by a Honda Pilot. The rear impact caused the front seats to fail and collapse back into the children's seats, causing the children serious head trauma and other injuries, the law firm said.
A Toyota spokesman told Automotive News in an email, "While we respect the court's decision, we believe that the judgment suffers from serious flaws and that the law requires entry of judgment in Toyota's favor. We look forward to presenting the trial court with additional arguments for a new trial, and, if necessary, pursuing further review."
He wrote that Toyota is committed to providing its customers with safe and reliable transportation, and that the company sympathizes with anyone in an accident involving a vehicle built by the company. The spokesman wrote that the company remains confident that the injuries sustained were the result of factors specific to the severe collision, not a defect in the design or manufacturing of the 2002 Lexus ES 300.
Plaintiffs' attorney Branson told Automotive News that the final judgment was fair.
"This was an outstanding family who was returning from church when the collision occurred," said Branson. "They work hard and contribute to their community. The jury found that Toyota's gross negligence was devastating to both children and their parents."