On Oct. 8, 2013, the Law Firm of McCuneWright, LLP, announced the filing of a nationwide class action entitled Lee v. Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. The case was filed in the United States District Court of California. The lawsuit alleges that since at least 2010, Toyota has marketed and sold a safety option called the Pre-Collision System (PCS) in its high-end Prius Five vehicles. The lawsuit claims that Toyota represents in its marketing materials and owner's manual that the PCS employs radar to sense an unavoidable frontal collision, and then if needed, automatically applies the brakes to prepare for the accident. The PCS is part of an advanced technology package option that usually sells for over $5,000. The PCS option is believed to make up approximately $1,000 of that cost.
This type of technology is an important safety development from vehicle manufacturers which provides a way to reduce the number and severity of rear-end collisions, the law firm claims. However, the lawsuit claims that purchasers did not receive what Toyota represented with the PCS. In vehicle testing by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS), the Toyota Prius was one of only two models that failed to get any rating, leading the IIHS to state: "The Toyota Prius V wagon, which claims to have autobrake, had minimal braking in IIHS tests and currently fails to meet NHTSA criteria for forward collision warning. It doesn't qualify for an IIHS front crash prevention rating."
The lawsuit seeks to force Toyota to reimburse owners for the cost of the PCS and to force Toyota to discontinue marketing that the PCS provides automatic braking. According to McCuneWright partner, Richard McCune, "The Pre-Collision System problem illustrates our ongoing concern with Toyota's electronics and brake systems."
McCuneWright filed the nation's first sudden unintended acceleration class action against Toyota in 2009, and settled for an estimated $1.6 billion earlier this year. The central contention in that case was the lack of a brake override. The acceleration and brake electronics is also at the heart of the first sudden unintended acceleration wrongful death trial that recently concluded. A verdict is expected shortly. Additionally, in June 2013, Toyota announced the recall of over 200,000 Prius and Lexus hybrid vehicles as a result of problems with the brake booster pump assembly, the law firm claims. Just yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Toyota who was seeking the court to force arbitration in California class action lawsuits arising from a claim that the 2010 Prius' have defective anti-locking brake systems.
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