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Sudden-acceleration litigation could soon include Ohio plaintiffs

Most readers will likely remember all too well the fallout suffered by Toyota Motor Corporation in recent years relating to so-called sudden acceleration problems affecting many of its vehicles. Widespread personal injury and wrongful death litigation resulted from the claims of thousands of motorists that their vehicles sped up summarily and without warning.

Toyota was forced to recall nearly eight million vehicles owing to the problem. The company additionally paid $1.1 billion to settle claims that owners of affected vehicles suffered a diminution of value caused by the defect.

The media blitz that accompanied sudden acceleration and related car accident stories in 2009 and 2010 brought about a rule proposal by the NHTSA seeking mandatory installation of an override braking system in all vehicles built from 2010.

A number of companies — including BMW, Volkswagen, Audi and Mercedes-Benz — complied with that proposal.

Ford Motor Company also did, although its decision to not call back and add the system to earlier-year models is now coming back to haunt it. A suit seeking class action status was filed in federal court last week alleging that Ford disregarded sudden-acceleration risks it knew about in thousands of pre-2010 models, knowingly subjecting drivers to accident risks.

One researcher and writer on sudden acceleration says that Ford’s decision to forgo installation of brake override has left many drivers without a “fail safe” in the event their vehicles speed up without warning.

Plaintiffs in the case are currently from 14 states. Case commentators note the likelihood that the litigation will expand to include class members from all 50 states, including Ohio.

Source: USA TODAY, “Lawsuit: Older Fords can suddenly speed up,” Jayne O’Donnell, March 28, 2013