Last month, Toyota hastily settled an Unintended Acceleration lawsuit – hours after an Oklahoma jury determined that the automaker acted with “reckless disregard,” and delivered a $3 million verdict to the plaintiffs – but before the jury could determine punitive damages.
What did the jury hear that constituted such a gross neglect of Toyota’s due care obligations? The testimony of two plaintiff’s experts in software design and the design process gives some eye-popping clues. After reviewing Toyota’s software engineering process and the source code for the 2005 Toyota Camry, both concluded that the system was defective and dangerous, riddled with bugs and gaps in its failsafes that led to the root cause of the crash.
Bookout and Schwarz v. Toyota emanated from a September 2007 UA event that caused a fatal crash. Jean Bookout and her friend and passenger Barbara Schwarz were exiting Interstate Highway 69 in Oklahoma, when she lost throttle control of her 2005 Camry. When the service brakes would not stop her speeding sedan, she threw the parking brake, leaving a 150-foot skid mark from right rear tire, and a 25-foot skid mark from the left. The Camry, however, continued speeding down the ramp and across the road at the bottom, crashing into an embankment. Schwarz died of her injuries; Bookout spent five months recovering from head and back injuries.