Five years after a lawsuit was filed and 2 months after a Minnesota jury determined that Toyota must pay $11.4 million in damages for a high-speed crash in St. Paul that cost the lives of three people and sent a man to prison, Toyota is now attempting to argue for the first time that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over the matter. According to Bob Hilliard, attorney for the driver, Koua Fong Lee, Toyota's "legal gamesmanship is preposterous and shameful."
In a recent filing with the Court, Toyota argues that Mr. Lee and his family members who were in the vehicle with him on the day of the crash are not entitled to sue Toyota in federal court because they were not Minnesota citizens at the time their lawsuit was filed. The Lees were Hmong refugees who came to the United States in 2005 after fleeing from political persecution. Each of the Lees applied for and became naturalized United States citizens. Koua Fong Lee was in the process of obtaining his citizenship when he was sentenced to 8 years in prison as a result of the accident—an accident that a Minnesota jury recently determined was mostly caused by a defective 1996 Toyota Camry. Mr. Lee quickly obtained his citizenship immediately after being freed from prison early following a hearing presenting evidence of the Toyota defect. Toyota now wants Mr. Lee's case and the verdict thrown out, taking the position that, even though Mr. Lee has been a US citizen since 2012, at the beginning of the lawsuit he was only a political refugee. Toyota calls Mr. Lee "stateless" and claims he was without the right to file a lawsuit.
"Its amazingly ironic that a Japanese car company comes into the American Court system and, after losing a $11.4 million verdict where the jury determined its 1996 Toyota Camry was dangerous and defective, decides to challenge the right of a US citizen to a have his day in court," Hilliard says.
Hilliard says "After 5 long years of litigation, a month long trial, and no real chance of winning on appeal, Toyota plays the 'race card'—this is as desperate as it is despicable. No different than when Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps."
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Hilliard Munoz Gonzales LLP (HMG) specializes in mass torts, personal injury, product liability, commercial and business litigation, and wrongful death. Hilliard Munoz 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.
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