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Toyota Settles Suit Tied to Fatal San Diego Crash That Triggered Recalls

Toyota Motor Corp. said it settled a suit with relatives of four people killed in a San Diego accident that prompted the Japanese automaker to recall vehicles on concern they might suddenly accelerate.

“Through mutual respect and cooperation we were able to resolve this matter without the need for litigation,” Toyota said in an e-mailed statement last night, without disclosing the terms of the settlement.

Toyota President Akio Toyoda, in remarks to Congress in February, apologized to the family of Mark Saylor, the California Highway Patrol officer who was killed along with his wife, daughter and brother-in-law in a Lexus that sped out of control in August 2009. Investigators identified floor mats as a probable cause of that accident.

“Especially, I would like to extend my condolences to the members of the Saylor family, for the accident in San Diego,” Toyoda said in front of a U.S. House Committee on Feb. 23. “I would like to send my prayers again, and I will do everything in my power to ensure that such a tragedy never happens again.”

The accident occurred near San Diego on Aug. 28, 2009 while Saylor was driving a 2009 ES 350 loaned to him by a local Lexus dealership, the company said. Following the accident, Toyota on Sept. 30, 2009, announced plans for its biggest ever recall in the U.S., covering 3.8 million vehicles, for floor mats that could slip out of position and jam gas pedals.

Toyota has recalled about 8 million vehicles worldwide to fix sticky pedals and misshapen floor mats linked to unintended sudden acceleration. Plaintiff lawyers have said the cars’ electronic throttle system caused the problems, an allegation that Toyota has denied.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in May that Toyota vehicles in unintended acceleration crashes may be linked to 89 deaths since 2000.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alan Ohnsman in Los Angeles at aohnsman@bloomberg.net

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