CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (June 15, 2015) Today, Judge Montgomery of the District Court of Minnesota issued an Order affirming the juryâ€™s award in a case involving a defective Toyota Camry that has been pending for the past five years which resulted in the death of three individuals and a man spending nearly three years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
[Koua Fong Lee with his wife, Panghoua Moua, and attorney Bob Hilliard after the verdict.]
On August 5, 2010, Koua Fong Lee, a Hmong immigrant, was released from prison after serving two and a half years of an eight-year prison sentence, wrongfully convicted of criminal vehicular homicide. Mr. Lee and his family were involved in a car accident on June 10, 2006 after a trip home from a family celebration at church turned deadly. Upon exiting the highway onboard his 1996 Toyota Camry, Mr. Lee's brakes failed, causing a violent rear-end collision that led to the death of three passengers in another vehicle and seriously injured two others. Mr. Lee's vehicle experienced sudden unintended acceleration caused by a design defect in Toyota's fleet. While Toyota had kept consumers and the public in the dark about prior incidents of sudden unintended acceleration, Mr. Lee was nonetheless forced to spend over two years in prison, until a new trial was granted to prove that Toyota's design defect was the true cause of the deadly accident. Upon this showing the State had no other recourse but to drop all charges against Mr. Lee.
On February 3, 2015, in a subsequent civil trial, a jury found that Toyota was liable for design defects and awarded a total of $11.4 million—the single largest verdict against Toyota for sudden unintended acceleration.
In an effort to avoid the multi-million dollar award, on March 4, 2015, Toyota asked the Court to declare that the Toyota Camry involved in the accident did not have a design defect or to grant the automaker a new trial— alleging there was no evidence presented at trial to support the finding that the accident was caused by a design defect. This is not the first time the auto giant seeks to dodge the record-setting jury award. On February 17, Toyota asked the Court to reduce the jury verdict, alleging that Mr. Lee should contribute $4 million to the payment since the jury found him to be 40 percent at fault.
In the 67-page Opinion, Judge Montgomery declared, The jury deliberated for five days before reaching its unanimous verdict. The Court is convinced the jury discharged their duties diligently and with care. The verdict did not result in a miscarriage of justice warranting a new trial.â€
The jury reached the right decision when it found for Koua. And the Judge reached the right decision when she affirmed the juryâ€™s awardâ€ said Bob Hilliard, Founding Partner at Hilliard MuÃ±oz Gonzales, LLP, who took-on Toyota to remedy Mr. Lee's unjust conviction and who continues to fight on his behalf. The tragedy that cuts the deepest is an innocent man sat in prison for over two years while a car company, knowing he was innocent, continued to make billions while cowardly refusing to admit the truth of the defect. Today justice was affirmed and the Lees, as well as the other innocent victims, have finally won!