- Jan. 03, 2015
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (February 3, 2015) Bob Hilliard, of Hilliard Munoz Gonzales, has won the lawsuit against Toyota in which he proved its 1996 Camry was defectively dangerous and caused a 2006 deadly accident. The verdict, returned after 21 days of testimony, and 4 days of deliberations, further vindicates Koau Fong Lee, who was wrongfully imprisoned for the crash that caused the deaths of three people, and serious injuries to two others.
After the grueling 3 week trial in front of Judge Ann Montgomery in federal court in Minneapolis, Minnesota a 12-person jury unanimously agreed with Mr. Hilliard and found the Toyota Camry was defectively dangerous and a direct cause of the accident. The jury found 60% responsibility on Toyota.
The jury awarded all plaintiffs a total of: $11,440,000.00
THE UNDERLYING ACCIDENT
On June 10th 2006 Mr. Lee, was driving home from a church function with his pregnant wife, young child, as well as his brother and elderly father when his car begin to accelerate by itself. The racing engine overpowered the braking system’s ability to stop it.Though Mr. Lee tried to maneuver his out of control and accelerating vehicle around cars stopped at the approaching traffic light, he could not and crashed into an Oldsmobile Ciera, instantly killing two people and rendering a six-year-old girl quadriplegic, she died the following year. Two other passengers in the Oldsmobile suffered serious injuries. Mr. Lee and his family were not seriously injured.
HILLIARD HELPED FREE LEE FROM PRISON
Even though there were no drugs or alcohol involved and the accident happened on a clear Saturday afternoon and Mr. Lee always maintained something had gone suddenly wrong with his Toyota, in 2008 a criminal jury convicted Mr. Lee of criminally negligent homicide and he was sentenced to 8 years in prison. At the time of the criminal trial there was little known about sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles and Mr. Lee’s criminal attorney presented no evidence on this issue. For 2 and a half years Koua Fong Lee sat in prison, away from his wife and 4 kids. Lee had 5 more years to serve when Mr. Hilliard and his co-counsel, Minneapolis based attorney Brent
Schafer, put on evidence at a hearing seeking to overturn Mr. Lee’s conviction that the 1996
Toyota Camry was defective. At the end of the hearing the same Judge who sentenced Mr. Lee to 8 years in prison ordered his conviction vacated and granted his immediate release. The prosecutor declined to re-charge Mr. Lee.
FILING OF THE LAWSUIT
After Mr. Lee was released from prison Hilliard filed this lawsuit against Toyota. Joining Mr. Lee in this lawsuit were his wife, Panghoua, his daughter Jemee, his brother Nong, and his father Nhia. Also in the lawsuit were the Oldsmobile front seat passenger who was severely injured, Quincy Adams. The Oldsmobile back seat passenger, Jasmine Adams who was also severely injured, and Bridgette Trice on behalf of the Estate of Devyn Bolton, the little girl who was in the middle back seat of the Oldsmobile and was rendered a quadriplegic from the accident, dying 18 months later.
EVIDENCE OF THE DEFECT AT TRIAL
Hilliard put on expert testimony to show that the accelerator on Lee’s 1996 Toyota Camry suddenly and unexpectedly stuck in the near wide-open position, causing the car to accelerate. He also called to testify three independent witnesses who had experienced similar events in their 1996 Toyota Camry, a doctor, a Blackhawk helicopter pilot currently deployed in Kuwait and a former CFO of a college university.
“SHAME ON TOYOTA.” Hilliard says
“Finally, through this jury’s verdict, Justice, though slow, has come to Koua Fong Lee. Mr. Lee and his family, as well as the other victims of this accident, have experienced a journey biblical in its sadness and anguish. I know there were times when they could not have ever dared hope this day would find them.”
For years after the accident, the Lees, Hmong immigrants, who came to the United States to start a new life, were overwhelmed and bullied--first by the criminal justice system and then by Toyota,” Hilliard said.
“Shame on Toyota for wrongly attempting to once again lay the guilt of this accident on Koua. From opening statements through closing arguments, Toyota, who spent tens of millions of dollars on this case, tried to again frame my client. I thank the jury for its courage, for its careful analysis of the testimony and evidence but mostly for its verdict. As I have always known, and now, as the world knows and as the jury has confirmed, the lives lost and the horrible consequences of that tragic day in 2006 are a direct result of this dangerous and defective 1996 Toyota Camry, and not Koua Fong Lee.” Hilliard said.
“Koua will never be able to regain the years he languished in prison. The other innocent victims and their families who were in the Oldsmobile will never completely recover from this terrible crash. Still, there is some peace, some hope that comes from being reminded of the healing power of our justice system. These 12 brave individuals on this jury stared down Toyota, the world’s largest car company, and delivered the strong and sweet sound of Justice through their verdict,” says Hilliard.
THE AWARDS PER PLAINTIFF
Jasmine Adams: $4,000,000.00
Quincy Adams: $1,250,000.00
Koua Fong Lee: $1,250,000.00
Panghoua Moua: $750,000.00
Jemee Lee: $150,000.00
Nhia Koua Lee: $15,000.00
Nong Lee: $25,000.00
The Estate of Devyn Bolton: $4,000,000.00
Hilliard Muñoz Gonzales LLP (HMG) specializes in mass torts, personal injury, product liability, commercial and business litigation, and wrongful death. Hilliard Muñoz Gonzales LLP has been successfully representing clients in the United States and Mexico since 1986. Bob Hilliard obtained the Largest Verdict in the country in 2012 and the #1 verdict in Texas in 2013.
HMG is actively seeking to represent other victims of Toyota’s defective vehicles.
SCHEDULE AN INTERVIEW WITH BOB HILLIARD
Contact Lauren Gomez at 361-960-3146