CHP Family Sues Toyota

The crash that started the wave of publicity about Toyota products and claims of unintended acceleration is last summer is on its way to court.

Automotive News (free registration required) reports that relatives of California Highway Patrol Officer Mark Saylor have filed suit against Toyota Motor Company, alleging that the Lexus ES 350 (a dealer loaner vehicle) was "defective" when given to Saylor without "adequate warnings of the danger".

San Diego County investigators say the fatal crash, which followed six minutes of uncontrolled acceleration in which the sedan hit 120 miles per hour, another car, a fence and then flew through the air, crashing in flames and killing Saylor, his wife, teenage daughter and brother-in-law (who was on the phone to 9-1-1 for the final minutes), was caused by the gas pedal getting stuck under a floor mat designed for a larger vehicle.

The spectacular nature of the crash, the fact that it was a Highway Patrolman at the wheel, and the existence of a sensational 9-1-1 audio tape guaranteed lengthy and repeated nationwide coverage.

But it has also caused skepticism...many people finding it hard to believe that a CHP officer, trained to deal with vehicluar emergencies, allowed the car to speed out of control for six minutes, endangering his passengers and others on the road, without shifting to neutral, turning off the engine or finding the bunched up floormat to be the problem and kicking it out of the way.

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