Toyota settles case stemming from Santee crash for $1.2 billion
SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The U.S. Justice Department announced Wednesday that
Toyota Motor Corp. will pay $1.2 billion to settle a criminal case and wide-ranging probe investigation that stemmed from a quadruple-fatal crash in 2009
Federal prosecutors alleged the company misled consumers after the crash
about safety issues involving Toyota and Lexus vehicles.
The Aug. 28, 2009, crash, which occurred where state Route 125
terminates at Mission Gorge Road, killed California Highway Patrol Officer Mark
Saylor of Chula Vista; his 45-year-old wife, Cleofe; 13-year-old daughter,
Mahala; and 38-year-old brother-in-law, Chris Lastrella.
They had just picked up a 2009 Lexus ES 350 as a loaner from a
dealership in El Cajon when the accelerator became jammed in an improperly
installed floor mat. The vehicle careened through a T-intersection at high
speed, struck a Ford Explorer, plowed through a picket fence, went over an
embankment and came to rest in the bed of the San Diego River.
The car burst into flames, burning the occupants beyond recognition.
Toyota paid $10 million to the Saylors' relatives. However, federal
prosecutors said company officials deceived regulators by saying the root cause
of the stuck accelerator problems — which had plagued Toyota and Lexus
vehicles for a couple of years before the crash — had been solved in a limited
“Rather than promptly disclosing and correcting safety issues about
which they were aware, Toyota made misleading public statements to consumers
and gave inaccurate facts to members of Congress,” Attorney General Eric
Holder said at a Washington, D.C., news conference. “When car owners get
behind the wheel, they have a right to expect that their vehicle is safe. If
any part of the automobile turns out to have safety issues, the car company has
a duty to be upfront about them, to fix them quickly, and to immediately tell
the truth about the problem and its scope.”
Holder said Toyota “violated that basic compact.”
The settlement, which is the largest involving an automobile
manufacturer, also imposes on Toyota an independent monitor to review and
assess policies, practices and procedures for making safety-related public
statements and reporting obligations.