Eight years after a fatal crash when three Minnesota residents were killed by the driver of a Toyota Camry, the Japanese manufacturer of the vehicle faces a lawsuit that went on trial on Jan 7th, 2015.

Driver freed 2 years after the crash
In August 2010 Koua Fong Lee, the driver of the Toyota Camry that caused the fatal crash was freed after spending two years in prison in St. Paul, Minnesota. Charges of criminal vehicular homicide were dropped amidst reports of a defective Toyota Camry that would mysteriously accelerate while in motion had hit the national headlines.

Koua Fong Lee and other survivors of the crash are expected to seek damages from the car manufacturer.
The crash occurred when Lee’s Camry rear-ended another family’s Oldsmobile at high speed in 2006. Lee says he was always suspicious of the car and felt that it was defective but he kept driving it. Only after having spent 2½ years in prison and reports of defective Camrys surfacing, could his accident attorney convince the courts to drop the charges against him. Toyota thinks that Lee accidentally hit the gas pedal instead of the brakes and caused the accident. The trial will provide opportunities to both parties to site their case.
In order to focus on the car and not Lee’s prison sentence the judge has limited what the attorneys can speak about Lee’s incarceration.

What happened during and after the crash?
On June 10th, 2006 Lee and his family was driving home from church. He alleges that the car suddenly gained speed while exiting the highway in St. Paul. The Camry slammed into an Oldsmobile that had stopped at an intersection at 75 mph. The crash killed the driver of the Oldsmobile Javis Trice-Adams Sr., and his 9-year old son on the spot. His 6-year old niece, Devyn Bolton, was left paralyzed, and later died in October 2007.  Two other passengers in the car suffered serious injuries.
Lee has held that the brakes failed, but was sent to prison after being convicted of vehicular homicide. He was released and was given a new trial after other Toyotas experienced similar problems. Prosecutors were not in favor of a fresh trial and Lee went free in 2010.
The lawsuit after the crash
The plaintiffs, which consist of the survivors of Trice family and Bolton families, will be heard at the trial. US District Court Judge, Ann Montgomery has dismissed most of the claims including those from Lee seeking damages for his incarceration.
Lee’s story may not hold up. His incarceration may not have been a mistake and if found guilty he should be tossed back into prison.
After reports of brake defects surfaced in 2009, Toyota recalled more than 10 million cars, paid fines amounting to $1.2 billion in settlements with the government after admitting to concealing of information from consumers and the government.
Toyota has over the years blamed drivers, sticky accelerators, and floor mats that impeded the foot on the gas pedal for the mysterious and sudden acceleration claims. The company said it sympathizes with the families that have suffered the crash, but is confident that they can prove that it was not the vehicle that caused the crash. Robert Hilliard, accident attorney for Lee, was not available for comment.

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