POSTED: 12:48 p.m. HST, Dec 23, 2010
LOS ANGELES — Toyota Motor Corp. agreed to pay $10 million to the family of four people killed in a runaway Lexus crash that led to recalls of millions of the automaker's vehicles, an attorney said Thursday.
The amount was released Thursday by Orange County lawyer Larry Willis, who represents the dealership that lent the Lexus to the family, attorney Jean-Paul Jassy said. Jassy spoke with Willis and represented several media organizations, including The Associated Press, that filed a motion opposing efforts to keep the details sealed.
The dealership was privy to the confidential September settlement agreement but has not yet reached its own agreement with those who sued.
The settlement amount was first reported Thursday by the Los Angeles Times. Toyota, which did not admit or deny liability in the settlement, said in a statement it was disappointed the amount had been made public.
"As is common in these cases, these parties agreed to keep the amount confidential, in part to protect the families from unwanted solicitations and to allow them to move on from this difficult period," the automaker said.
The August 2009 crash killed off-duty California Highway Patrol Officer Mark Saylor, 45, his wife, their daughter and Saylor's brother-in-law.
They were killed on a suburban San Diego freeway when their car reached speeds of more than 120 mph, struck a sport utility vehicle, launched off an embankment, rolled several times and burst into flames.
Investigators determined that a wrong-size floor mat trapped the accelerator and caused the crash.
Toyota recalled millions of cars to replace floor mats that it said could cause the accelerator to jam. The carmaker later recalled millions more vehicles to replace gas pedals that it said could stick.
The case was considered the strongest of hundreds of lawsuits that have since been filed and consolidated before a federal judge in Orange County over claims stemming from sudden acceleration in several Toyota models, and brake glitches with the company's Prius hybrid.
Toyota and the plaintiffs sought to keep the settlement amount confidential. The Japanese automaker argued the release of the settlement details could affect pending litigation and hurt its reputation.
Superior Court Judge Anthony Mohr, however, said the public's right to the details outweighed arguments made by both sides. On Monday, he denied a motion to keep the settlement sealed. Mohr also extended a gag order until late Wednesday in order to give either side the chance to seek a stay, and up to 10 days to decide whether to pull the settlement altogether.
Tim Pestotnik, a lawyer who represented the Saylor family, said his clients opted not to pursue a stay or appeal the judge's order allowing the release of the settlement amount.
"The families seek only privacy and peace at this time," Pestotnik said.