Litigation

Retired U.S. Army Colonel Sues Toyota Over Injuries

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Robert J. Nelson of the national plaintiffs' law firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP has announced that retired U.S. Army Col. Harry Williams of Woodbridge, Va., on Feb. 24 filed a personal injury lawsuit seeking general and punitive damages against Toyota Motor Corp. for severe injuries he suffered in an accident that he said resulted from significant safety defects in a Toyota vehicle. On Jan. 23, 2009, Williams was driving a 2009 Toyota Camry near the Jefferson Davis Highway in Woodbridge when it allegedly suddenly accelerated and crashed.

Williams, age 50, served on active duty in the U.S. Army for 26 years until his retirement in June 2008. During his service, Williams earned two Master's degrees and received several awards and honors. Since his retirement, Williams has served as chief of the Congressional Inquiry Division with the Office of the Chief of Legislative Liaison at Headquarters, Department of Army, in the Pentagon.

"The crash was a life-altering experience, causing major trauma to my neck and back as well as a traumatic brain injury," Williams said. "My job requires me to be sharp, focused and eloquent. This incident has caused me difficulties in my work and has negatively impacted my cognitive abilities, impaired my ability to concentrate and speak eloquently, and affected my mood and short-term memory."

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, used 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 due to 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:

Before the accident, Williams rented a 2009 Toyota Camry from Enterprise-Rent-A-Car.

On Jan. 23, 2009, at about 7:30 a.m., Williams, wearing his seat belt, was driving at a safe rate of speed, proceeding eastbound on Cardinal Drive in Woodbridge, Va. As he reached the intersection of Cardinal Drive and Jefferson Davis Highway, the Camry suddenly accelerated at a high rate of speed. Williams was unable to stop the vehicle by braking.

The Camry hit a 2005 Dodge Caravan that was attempting to make a left turn from Neabsco Road onto southbound Jefferson Davis Highway. As a result of the collision, Williams suffered a loss of consciousness and sustained serious injuries, including a traumatic brain injury, as well as neck, back, and leg injuries. Residual symptoms of the traumatic brain injury continue to affect all aspects of Williams' daily life.

Lieff Cabraser represents persons across America injured in accidents involving Toyota and Lexus vehicles that suddenly accelerated. For more information, visit the firm’s Toyota sudden acceleration dangers information page or call toll-free at 1-800-541-7358 and ask to speak to attorney Todd Walburg. There is no charge or obligation for our review of your case.

Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, is a 60-plus attorney law firm that has represented plaintiffs nationwide since 1972. It has offices in San Francisco, New York and Nashville, Tenn.  For more information, visit http://www.lieffcabraser.com/index.htm.