November 27, 2007

California trial to determine if Toyota is responsible for traffic death

Stockton, California – A jury in San Joaquin County, California is expected to hear opening arguments today in Singh v. Toyota Motor Corporation, a lawsuit that alleges Toyota failed to test the design for the Corolla in real world conditions. Lawyers will argue that the lack of testing makes the vehicle “a fire hazard and the seatbelts a death trap.”

“When consumers purchase a car they have a reasonable expectation that the seatbelts will work properly and that they will unlatch in a 40 miles per hour crash,” said lead attorney Lou Franecke.

Nearly five years ago, Raminder Singh burned to death in a car crash when his Toyota Corolla was forced off the road by another vehicle. His son Gurinder Singh, who was also in the car, claimed in depositions that he released his seatbelt and escaped the car, but that he and bystanders failed in unlatching the elder Singh’s seatbelt before the car was engulfed in flames.

The lawsuit filed by Singh’s family alleges that Toyota did not design nor test the Corolla in real-world conditions for a fire hazard in a driver’s side head-on collision. “By placing the battery and electrical components in proximity to the fuel line, the Toyota Corolla is designed to be a potentially explosive device upon a driver side head-on collision, leaving you vulnerable to being trapped and burned to death,” said family attorney Mohinder Mann.

The lawsuit also alleges that Toyota did not follow standards used by a majority of American car manufacturers in designing the car’s seatbelt latch. “Toyota is one of the few remaining manufacturers still using a rigid metal seatbelt latch in their Corolla that bends and makes it impossible to unlatch the seatbelt and escape the vehicle,” Franecke said. “Toyota never tested their seatbelt design to see if the latch would work properly in the real world.”

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