$10.9M Verdict Against Toyota Could Change | News | HMG LLP

$10.9 million verdict against Toyota could rise or fall, depending on appeals

August 31, 2017

Source: Star Tribune by Randy Furst

Toyota's $10.9 million loss in a federal trial last week could grow by millions — or not.

Bob Hilliard, an attorney for a St. Paul man who sued the automaker over an accelerator defect, said his side will file a motion seeking prejudgment interest, from the date the suit was filed in 2010. It could cost Toyota up to $5 million, he said.

Koua Fong Lee and his wife

Hilliard said he'll also ask for post-judgment interest, from the judgment date to the payout date. If it's two years away it could cost Toyota another $3 million, Hilliard says. The plaintiffs also will ask that Toyota be ordered to pay their trial costs, probably less than $100,000.

The jury ruled Toyota was 60 percent at fault and Koua Fong Lee, the driver of 1996 Camry, was 40 percent responsible for a 2006 accident that caused three deaths.

The plaintiffs were Lee and family members who were in their Camry, and the passengers and family from the 1995 Oldsmobile Ciera that the Camry rear-ended.

While Toyota isn't talking, it will probably file a motion for a new trial, due March 4, contending that the case was too weak to send to a jury and should have been dismissed. It also is standard practice to claim that the judge abused her discretion and that some rulings were legally erroneous.

Toyota will most likely ask to have the $10.9 million reduced.

If U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery rules against Toyota, the company can be expected to appeal to the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Montgomery may issue a memorandum on the case, and if she upholds all of the jury's findings, it will be difficult for Toyota to win at the Eighth Circuit. Montgomery's arguments tend to be very tight, says Minneapolis attorney Paul Godlewski, who handles liability cases. She is well-known and well-respected for her decision-making by the Court of Appeals.

There also could be settlement discussions. Hilliard declined to say if they have occurred. An agreement would end the appeals process, and the settlement amount would likely be confidential.

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