In a suit filed by Allstate Insurance Co., against from Toyota Motor Corp., the insurer is seeking to recover more than $3 million Allstate and affiliates paid in claims for accidents linked to unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles.
Filed last Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court, the lawsuit represents a new wave of U.S. civil litigation piling up against the Japanese automaker for economic losses stemming from complaints about Toyotas that have allegedly sped out of control and crashed.
"We are expected to be one of several insurance companies that are taking this action,'' Allstate spokeswoman Christina Loznicka told Reuters on Monday.
The Allstate formal complaint says the automaker long ignored evidence of acceleration problems in its vehicles and failed to install a brake override system that would have prevented accidents. A similar class-action consumer suit is pending in federal court against Toyota.
The Allstate action asserts, as have other lawsuits, that acceleration flaws were rooted in a defect in an electronic throttle system Toyota introduced in the 1990s, and that Toyota ''essentially hid the problem'' instead of recalling the cars or changing the design, reports Reuters.
"This has resulted in numerous claims of instances of property damage and injuries, including in some instances fatalities,'' the suit says.
Claims that Allstate and affiliates paid to policyholders or third parties for accidents involving unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles total more than $3 million, according to the suit. However, Toyota’s estimated overall potential U.S. civil liability is $10 billion. In addition, similar suits from other insurance carriers are bound to multiply the effect of such subrogation claims, notes the Reuters report.
In a statement, Toyota spokesman Steven Curtis said on Monday the company had not seen the Allstate complaint, but "based on reports we believe the unfounded allegations in this suit have no basis.''
Toyota has insisted the only defects causing its vehicles to speed out of control were ill-fitting floor mats and sticking gas pedals -- both addressed in safety recalls encompassing 5.4 million U.S. vehicles, notes the Reuters report.
Toyota has strongly denied that an electronic glitch of any kind is to blame for its acceleration problems.
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