Toyota sued after vehicle allegedly accelerates on causeway

Michelle Massey Jul. 23, 2010, 7:33am

Lake Pontchartrain Causeway

NEW ORLEANS-Alleging their vehicle suddenly accelerated, two South Carolina residents have filed a lawsuit against Toyota after their Sienna collided within two other vehicles and a cement embankment on the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway.

Brenda A. Whaley and Robert J. Whaley filed suit against Toyota Motor Corp., Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America and Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana on May 27 in St. Tammany Parish District Court. The defendants removed the case to federal court in New Orleans July 15.

The crash happened in June 2009 as Brenda Whaley was driving her 2004 Toyota Sienna across the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway with her husband following her in a separate vehicle.

According to the complaint, Whaley passed a slow-moving 18-wheel truck and trailer just before the Sienna allegedly accelerated out of control.

Whaley hit a vehicle in front of her, causing it to roll onto its roof. She claims the collision did not slow the Sienna and it continued to speed uncontrollably.

In the suit, Whaley says she crashed into a second vehicle but the Sienna continued with uncontrolled and unattended acceleration and became harder to steer.

"Mrs. Whaley was terrified at the thought of hitting yet another vehicle, so she consciously decided to attempt to blow out the right side tires by trying to scrape them against a cement embankment that holds a guard railing, the only thing separating the roadway from the lake," the lawsuit states.

When that proved unsuccessful, Whaley turned into the right-hand lane and then into the cement embankment, where the Sienna stopped.

The Whaleys argue Toyota is liable for their damages, under the Louisiana Products Liability Act, for failure to warn of the unintended and controlled acceleration defect, unreasonably dangerous construction, nonconformity to an express warranty, liable under Louisiana's Redhibition Laws, breach of warranties, liable under Louisiana Unfair Trade Practices Act and violations of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.

The plaintiffs are seeking damages for the loss of the Sienna and the purchase of another vehicle, which cost an additional $22,696.20 above insurance proceeds, out-of-pocket expenses to return to South Carolina, loss of value of extended warranty, expenses related to the purchase of the new vehicle, general damages for mental anguish, attorney fees, court costs, interest and repurchase of a 2003 Camry.

The Whaleys are also asking the court for indemnity of any claims or lawsuits related to the crash.

The Whaleys are represented by Kathleen F. Hobson in New Orleans. A jury trial is requested.

U.S. District Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon is assigned to the case.

Case No. 2:10cv01995

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