Was fatal St. Paul crash caused by driver error or defective Toyota? Jury deciding


Three weeks of testimony are over and now a jury will decide whether a car crash that killed three Minnesotans was caused by a defective Toyota or by driver error.

A Camry driven by Koua Fong Lee accelerated up an Interstate 94 exit ramp and rear-ended an Oldsmobile Ciera in the 2006 crash in St. Paul. Three people in the Ciera were killed and two others injured.

Since the trial began in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, attorneys for Lee and other plaintiffs have argued a defect caused the Toyota's accelerator to stick, leading to the accident. Toyota says inspections found nothing wrong with the car and Lee must have pushed the wrong pedal.

In Wednesday's closing statement, attorney Bob Hilliard said Lee "lives with consequences that are hard to imagine" and described his client's pain as unhealable, the Pioneer Press reports.

Toyota attorney David Graves countered that Lee mistaking the gas pedal for the brake is the only explanation for the accident, the Associated Press says.

Lee was convicted of vehicular homicide in 2008. While he was imprisoned, reports of sudden acceleration problems with some Toyota models began to emerge. In 2010 a judge ordered a new trial for Lee but prosecutors declined to press charges again and he was released.

Lee described his saga in an 11-minute video called "The Road to Justice," produced by RumJungle Media.

Last month he became the first person to be compensated for wrongful imprisonment under a new Minnesota law.

Lawsuits against Toyota filed by an injured survivor of the 2006 crash, family members of those killed, Lee, and his family were combined into a single case, the Pioneer Press reports.

The author of a book about Lee's saga sat through the civil trial in Minneapolis and tells WCCO her gut feeling is that jurors will side with the plaintiffs.

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