Toyota Agrees to $1 Billion Settlement in Acceleration Case

PHOTO: A Toyota sign hangs over a dealership in Centennial, Colo.

Toyota has agreed to pay more than $1 billion to customers to settle a class action lawsuit that alleged its vehicles accelerated dangerously and without warning, according to statements by the carmaker and the plaintiffs' attorney.

The deal, which still needs approval by a federal judge in California, includes a $250 million fund to be paid to Toyota owners who sold their cars at a loss following reports of vehicle malfunctions, as well as the installation of a brake override system in about 3.25 million vehicles

An additional $250 million fund will be created to pay those owners whose vehicles are not eligible for the retrofitted brakes.

Toyota recalled more than 14 million vehicles after reports of sudden, unexplained acceleration in several models began to surface between 2009 and 2010. There were also reports of brake problems with the Prius hybrid.

Toyota insists that it was not an electrical flaw that caused the acceleration problems, but driver error, floor mats and sticky gas pedals.

Both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and NASA have said there is nothing in wrong with programs that run the vehicles' onboard computers

"From the very start, this was a challenging case," said Steve Berman, the plaintiffs' lawyer. "We brought in automotive experts, physicists and some of the world's leading theoreticians in electrical engineering to help us understand what happened to drivers experiencing sudden acceleration."

The settlement also includes $30 million to be given to outside groups to study automotive safety.

In a statement, Toyota agreed to the deal.

"In keeping with our core principles, we have structured this agreement in ways that work to put our customers first and demonstrate that they can count on Toyota to stand behind our vehicles." said Toyota spokesman Christopher P. Reynolds.

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