sudden acceleration

1995-1996 Toyota Camry.
IFCAR / wikimedia commons

MINNEAPOLIS - A federal jury has ordered Toyota Motor Corp. to pay nearly $11 million to victims of a fatal wreck after deciding a design flaw in the 1996 Camry was partially to blame for the Minnesota crash.

The verdict, which also held the driver partially responsible, was announced Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis.

Koua Fong Lee's 1996 Camry crashed into another vehicle in St. Paul. Lee testified he tried to stop, but that the car wouldn't slow.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will reveal the results Tuesday afternoon of a year-long NASA investigation into claims of sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles.

Toyota recalled millions of vehicles last year – many because of the potential for loose floor mats to entrap the gas pedal.  In other cases, the gas pedal wouldn’t fully release.

But hundreds of lawsuits allege that Toyota vehicles can also speed out of control because something is wrong with the electronic throttle control system, perhaps due to electromagnetic interference – a problem NASA knows a lot about.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a preliminary report last year suggesting that in some cases, the sudden acceleration was the fault of drivers, because they hit the gas pedal instead of the brake.

Toyota says it has failed to find any problems with its electronic throttle control systems.  The company did pay record fines last year for delaying recalls.