In 2012, 17-year-old high school senior Lacee Dial died in a car accident on her way to a job interview for a veterinary internship. More than five years later, her family has finally gotten justice, as an Anderson County jury told Toyota Motor Corporation, Toyota Motor Sales USA, and A&P Automotive Inc. that they had to pay damages of $12 million for their loss.
Investigators found that Lacee’s car accident occurred as she was driving on a “flat, straight road on dry pavement in broad daylight.” The left rear axle on the 1999 Toyota that she was driving fractured, causing her left rear wheel to detach.
The SUV subsequently rolled over and ran into a utility pole. The girl was trapped for two hours before being freed from the vehicle, and she died from her injuries. The jury awarded the family $6 million for the wrongful death of their daughter and another $6 million for the suffering that she endured before her death.
Lawsuit Blames Toyota’s Defective Design for Teen’s Death
The family claimed that the fatal car accident was caused by the “defective and unreasonable design of the axle,” as well as its manufacture, and further that the car manufacturer either knew or should have been aware of similar incidents involving the Toyota 4Runner.
Evidence submitted at trial showed that between June of 1987 and July of 2011 there were reports of 19 similar incidents resulting in one fatality and 19 injuries, 11 of which were the same generation of 4Runner as the vehicle Lacee was driving.
Toyota defended itself vigorously against the lawsuit, claiming that a defect in their vehicle did not cause the car accident. A statement issued by the company said, “Toyota is committed to providing its customers with safe and reliable transportation, and we sympathize with anyone affected by an accident involving one of our vehicles. While we respect the jury’s decision, we remain confident that this unfortunate accident was not the result of a defect in the 1999 4Runner.”