State Farm sues Toyota over damages from building collision, claims faulty accelerator was to blame

Dec. 30, 2011 at 6:30 a.m.
Updated Dec. 31, 2011 at 6:31 a.m.

Two years after a Victoria woman's Toyota Camry crashed into a building, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance is suing Toyota claiming a faulty accelerator pedal was to blame.

State Farm filed the lawsuit as a representative of its client Margaret Totah in district court in late October against Toyota Motor Sales, whose principal place of business is in Torrance, Calif.

State Farm hopes to recoup expenses for a claim it paid to Totah following the collision with the building and resulting fire.

Toyota is accused of negligently manufacturing and inspecting accelerator pedals and floor mats in its vehicles, which ultimately led to 85-year-old Totah's accident.

Messages left for both the plaintiff and the defendant as well as their attorneys seeking comment were not returned as of Thursday evening.

The defendant filed a formal response in late November denying the allegations.

"TMS would state that the incident in question and any resulting damages were the result of negligent acts and/or omissions of other parties or persons beyond TMS's control."

The lawsuit contends that in October 2009 Margaret Totah was attempting to pull her 2007 Toyota Camry into a parking space at the Edwards Jones and AFLAC building, 109 B-Teakwood, when the Camry's accelerator pedal became stuck, causing it to suddenly accelerate and collide with the building.

The car came to rest inside the building's hall and conference room, according to Advocate reports.

Totah, who had hit two parked cars months before the October incident, along with her husband, George Totah, and five people inside the office, were all uninjured.

The collision caused $49,737.01 worth of vehicle and property damage payable under Margaret Totah's State Farm Insurance policy, according to the lawsuit.

State Farm claims the Camry's sudden acceleration was the result of manufacturing defects.

Weeks before Totah's collision, Toyota issued safety recall "Floor mat interference with accelerator pedal," which included the Camry, indicating the accelerator pedal can get stuck in the wide open position due to its being trapped by an unsecured or incompatible driver's floor mat, according to the lawsuit.

Shane Wallace, senior patrol officer with the Victoria Police Department's traffic unit, said he did not see floor mats in the car following the wreck, according to the Advocate report.

Meanwhile, in January 2010, Toyota issued a safety recall "Accelerator Pedal Modification Campaign," which included the Camry, indicating that the accelerator may become hard to depress, slow to return to idle or, in the worst case, mechanically stuck in partially depressed position, increasing the risk of crash."

State Farm contends that Toyota is at fault not only due to its negligence for failing to exercise reasonably prudent and ordinary care in the design, manufacture and marketing of the vehicle, but also because of its breach of the pedal's implied warranty of merchantability and fitness as well as the company's strict product liability.

"Toyota Motor Sales knew or reasonably should have known about its danger," the lawsuit maintained.

"Toyota Motor Sales was in a position to detect and warn Ms. Totah of the defective accelerator pedal and/or braking system in the vehicle, but failed to so."

State Farm seeks to recover all the damages it paid to Totah.



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