No new trial warranted in fatal Toyota crash, judge rules

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A judge ruled there will not be a new trial in the case of Koua Fong Lee, the man who sued the Toyota car company claiming a vehicle defect was responsible for a 2006 St. Paul crash that killed three people.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery ruled the jury's verdict in February – which found Toyota partially responsible for the crash due to a faulty accelerator – was warranted, the Pioneer Press reports.

The multimillion dollar payout to the victims' families was also supported by Montgomery, the Star Tribune says; added interest bumped the total past $13 million.

Toyota was seeking a new trial, which was denied Monday, the Pioneer Press says.

Lee spent two years in prison after crashing his 1996 Camry into the back of an Oldsmobile in 2006, killing Javis Trice-Adams Sr, his 9-year-old son, his 6-year-old niece Devyn Bolton, and permanently injuring two others.

Lee was adamant that a fault with his vehicle meant he could not stop his car. He was released from prison and his conviction overturned, with the help of the Minnesota Innocence Project, after Toyota reported some of its models had been experiencing acceleration issues.

The suit against Toyota

Lee and his family were among the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the carmaker, alleging that a defect in the Camry had caused the crash.

Lee’s Camry was not included among the models Toyota identified as having problems, but the lawsuit claimed that the crash was caused by a similar defect.

Lee’s attorney argued that every time Lee tapped the gas pedal in the run-up to the crash, the accelerator stuck at increasingly higher speeds, and he crashed despite pumping the brakes several times.

The Japanese carmaker argued that the crash was the fault of driver error, saying Lee had panicked at the sight of upcoming traffic and hit the accelerator rather than the brake.

In February, a federal jury ruled Toyota was 60 percent responsible for injuries sustained in the 2006 crash, with Lee found to be 40 percent responsible. Toyota was told it must pay out around $11 million to the victims and their families, KARE 11 reports.

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