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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Manufacturing defect + Koua Fong Lee's account + similar accounts of runaway '96 Camrys = 100% Toyota's fault

It doesn't make sense to hold Koua Fong Lee 40% accountable for the tragic accident that claimed the lives of three people. You can't have it both ways. Either the vehicle had a manufacturing defect in the accelerator assembly or it didn't. The jury ruled that it did, giving credence to testimony given by Lee as well as other drivers who said they had unintended acceleration problems with '96 Camrys. So how on earth did the jury jump from agreeing with the crux of Koua's case to concluding that he was 40% at fault for the accident? It's anybody's guess as to how such a thing happened, and I certainly hope the miscarriage of justice is remedied on appeal.

The entire matter boils down to corroborating evidence of Lee's account of what happened. Fact is, such evidence has been there by the boatload ever since the accident occurred. The penniless immigrant was railroaded from the get go, and the disgraceful spectacle continued throughout his effort to sue Toyota - an admitted crook that deserves to be known as the Coverup King of the automotive industry - for a manufacturing defect.

Koua's lawsuit was stymied at the outset by a ridiculous legal shenanigan which took away his right to claim punitive damages. If anyone ever deserved punitive damages from an automaker, it's Koua Fong Lee, who spent a whopping two and a half years in prison as a consequence of Toyota's now-established manufacturing defect. And don't hand me any nonsense about shifting the blame for Lee's incarceration to Minnesota's sorry excuse for a justice system, then cleverly passing false imprisonment costs along to the taxpaying public. It's time automakers - especially admitted crooks like Toyota - are held accountable to the Nth degree for the consequences - both direct and indirect - resulting from manufacturing defects. Lee was further hamstrung by not being allowed to claim Toyota was guilty of a cover-up. Never mind complaints lodged with NHTSA about unintended acceleration in '96 Camrys. And don't dare to breath a word about the Coverup King - er I mean Toyota - pleading guilty to that federal fraud charge for misleading safety investigators about defective products.

Of course, "Judge Ann" quickly instructed the jury that it couldn't consider Lee's time in prison, nor the automaker's headline-grabbing parade of recalls, some of which resulted in record-setting fines for delays in reporting safety defects. Rounding out the picture, Lee's attorney's plans to present at additional witnesses were also quashed by the ever vigilant "Judge Ann," who kept a watchful eye lest a filthy rich corporate crook - at last count harboring $60 billion just in cash - be treated unfairly. If only folks had the same degree of concern for penniless immigrants and taxpaying citizens...

At one point, the kindly judge even assisted Toyota's attorney during a cross-examination of the hapless immigrant whose "peers" on the jury, I hasten to add, did not include anyone of Hmong descent. But perhaps "Judge Ann's" most notable "assistance" was allowing Toyota to present sworn depositions regarding that crux-of-the-case manufacturing defect. I'm sure the good judge wasn't aware of the fact that it's kinda difficult to conduct a cross-examination of a deposition. No wonder an Associated Press investigation concluded that Toyota uses evasion as a legal tactic.  Moreover, according to Lee's lawyer, Toyota spent "tens of millions" of dollars in an effort to "frame" his client.   
Don't get me wrong. Given the lopsided advantages granted to Toyota, it's a miracle the jury established that a manufacturing defect did exist, found Toyota 60% responsible for the accident, and awarded $11.4 million to the plaintiffs, $2.2 million of which will go to Lee. For all that, I'm exceedingly grateful. Unfortunately, the fact remains that many lives have been lost and shattered, the tragic nature of which was addressed quite admirably by a downcast and sorrowful Koua Fong Lee immediately after the verdict. 

Toyota, there are some things money just can't buy.