A Toyota Camry design flaw is partly to blame for a 2006 crash that killed 3 people in St. Paul, Minn. The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis. The jury found Toyota 60 percent responsible and the driver of the Camry, Koua Fong Lee, 40 percent responsible for the crash.
Lee claims his 1996 Toyota Camry had a defect, causing it to accelerate on an I-94 ramp and crash into another car in St. Paul, killing three people including a 9-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl. Toyota claims Lee accidentally hit the gas instead of the brake. Lee was convicted of vehicular manslaughter and spent two years in prison before being released, after more reports of Toyota vehicles suddenly accelerating. The U.S. Department of Justice even fined Toyota $1.2 billion for covering up the problem.
Lee's attorney argued it's a design issue with pulleys on the accelerator. Others have blamed a software glitch, the electrical system and even floor mats. The real cause remains unknown.
For Lee, there's vindication in the verdict, but he also acknowledges that so much has been lost.
"I want them to know I tried everything I could to stop the car, and my car would not stop. I want them to know and understand everything about me," he said.
Toyota must pay $11 million in damages to victims of the crash, with $1.25 million awarded to Koua Fong Lee -- an amount reduced to $750,000 since he was found 40 percent liable). The entire Lee family was awarded $2 million, or $1.69 million with the 40 percent reduction.
"We sympathize with anyone in an accident involving one of our vehicles, including the Trice, Adams and Lee families. While we respect the jury's decision, we believe the evidence clearly demonstrated that Mr. Lee's 1996 Camry was not the cause of this unfortunate accident. We will study the record and carefully consider our legal options going forward."