Toyota Must Pay $3 Million for Oklahoma Crash, Jury Says

Toyota Motor Corp. (7203) must pay $3 million in a lawsuit claiming a defect in a Camry caused the vehicle to suddenly accelerate, leading to an accident that left one woman dead and another injured, an Oklahoma jury said.

The jury awarded $1.5 million for each claim and will consider punitive damages tomorrow, plaintiffs’ attorney Graham Esdale said in an e-mailed message.

“Per the court’s instructions, we cannot comment on the ruling pending the ongoing deliberations by the jury,” Carly Schaffner, a Toyota spokeswoman, said in a statement after the initial verdict.

The 2005 Camry driven by Jean Bookout, then 76, sped out of control as she was exiting from an Oklahoma highway in September 2007, according to her lawyer, Jere L. Beasley. Bookout couldn’t stop the car and it crashed, injuring her and killing her passenger and friend, Barbara Schwarz, 70, he said.

Toyota denied there were any defects in Bookout’s Camry. The Oklahoma City state court jury today rejected Toyota’s defense.

The lawsuit is one of several hundred claims filed against Toyota in state and federal courts in the U.S. contending that the company’s vehicles can inadvertently accelerate. The Bookout case is the first test of a claim that a flaw in the vehicles’ electronic throttle-control system is at fault.

The case is Bookout v. Toyota Motor Corp., CJ-2008-7969, District Court, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma (Oklahoma City).

To contact the reporter on this story: Margaret Cronin Fisk in Detroit at mcfisk@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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