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New York Mother Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against Toyota Over Daughter’s Death

LOS ANGELES — Robert J. Nelson of the national plaintiffs’ law firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP has announced that Sandra Livingston of Roosevelt, N.Y., on Feb. 22 filed a wrongful death lawsuit seeking general and punitive damages against Toyota Motor Corp. for the death of her daughter, Tyrene Livingston. On Oct. 26, 2007, Tyrene’s 2007 Toyota Yaris suddenly accelerated and crashed while she was driving on U.S. Route 30 in East Pittsburgh, Pa., according to the lawsuit.

Before the fatal accident, Tyrene Livingston was a 21-year-old-graduate student who was pursuing her Master’s degree in Education at the University of Pittsburgh.

 The complaint charges that Toyota for years was aware that its vehicles were susceptible to sudden unintended acceleration, leading to fatal accidents,” stated plaintiffs’ counsel Robert J. Nelson. “Yet, Toyota never made any significant changes to improve the acceleration and electrical systems of its vehicles, in spite of the availability of several safe and inexpensive modifications.”

The complaint charges that beginning in the late 1990s, Toyota manufactured, distributed and sold vehicles with an electronic throttle control system (ETC). Unlike that of traditional throttle control systems, where a physical linkage connects the accelerator pedal to the engine throttle, in the ETC system, the engine throttle is controlled by electronic signals sent from the gas pedal to the engine throttle. A sensor at the accelerator detects how far the gas pedal is depressed and transmits that information to a computer module which controls the engine throttle.

When Toyota first introduced the ETC, it continued to include a mechanical linkage between the accelerator and the engine throttle control. Beginning with the 2002 model year, Toyota began manufacturing and selling vehicles without such a mechanical linkage. Further, Toyota’s ETC system fails to include a failsafe measure, known as brake-to-idle override that is in use by other vehicle manufacturers. The brake-to-idle override instructs the ETC system to automatically reduce the engine to idle whenever the brakes are applied without success.

The complaint was filed in federal court in Los Angeles as two of the primary defendants, Toyota Motor North America Inc. and Toyota Motor Sales Inc., are both California corporations with their headquarters located in Los Angeles. The complaint seeks general damages as well as punitive damages against Toyota for its failure to recall its vehicles because of a known, significant safety defect and refusal to take any steps to prevent sudden unintended acceleration accidents in order to increase its profits.

According to the lawsuit:

Four days before the fatal accident, Tyrene Livingston brought her Yaris to a Toyota dealership and complained of problems with the vehicle, including what she perceived to be issues with braking. The vehicle was inspected and tested, and she was ensured that nothing was wrong.

On Oct. 26, 2007, at approximately 8:45 a.m., Livingston, wearing her seat belt, was driving to her teaching internship at a local high school. She was driving eastbound on U.S. Route 30 in East Pittsburgh, Pa., at a safe rate of speed. As she traveled down the highway, the Yaris suddenly accelerated out of control and Livingston was unable to stop the vehicle by braking. The Yaris crossed four lanes of the highway at a high rate of speed, went over a curb, crashed through a guardrail, went down an embankment, and landed into trees, resulting in Livingston’s death.

Lieff Cabraser represents persons across America injured in accidents involving Toyota and Lexus vehicles that allegedly suddenly accelerated. For more information, visit or call 1-800-541-7358 and ask to speak to attorney Todd Walburg.

Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, is a 60-plus attorney law with offices in San Francisco, New York, and Nashville, Tenn. Learn more at