— Toyota has lost a $12 million wrongful death lawsuit that alleges a defective rear axle caused the crash of a 4Runner and the death of a 17-year-old South Carolina girl.
Killed in the 2012 crash was high school senior Lacee Dial after her 1999 Toyota 4Runner rolled over and struck a utility pole. Police reports say Lacee was trapped in the SUV for about two hours before she died.
Her family filed the lawsuit alleging a defective rear axle broke on the 4Runner and caused the SUV to roll. According to the plaintiffs, Toyota manufactured the axle too weak to handle routine driving because the metal was overheated.
Lacee was driving the SUV on September 15, 2015, when the rear axle allegedly fractured and caused the left rear wheel to detach.
The plaintiffs claim Toyota should have known about weak rear axles because of complaints filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. According to attorneys for the plaintiffs, records show that 60 incidents occurred between 1987 and 2011, including 16 crashes and 19 injuries.
"Frame rusted out and rear axle support detached from frame while driving, causing vehicle to sway uncontrollably almost rolling over. Found that manufacturer has recall on trucks with similar frame for rust issue, but not this vehicle because there are not enough complaints or deaths." - 1998 Toyota 4Runner owner / Burlington, Kentucky
In addition, the lawsuit claims seven rollover crashes were reported, similar to the rollover Lacee's 4Runner experienced.
The lawsuit further alleges 31 rear axle fractures were reported prior to the manufacture of Lacee’s Toyota 4Runner.
Included in the lawsuit was testimony of an eyewitness who claims they saw the axle break while the SUV was traveling on a straight road during clear weather.
Toyota denied the axle was defective, but the jury awarded $6 million for Lacee’s pain and suffering and $6 million in damages for her parents.
The Toyota 4Runner axle lawsuit was filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Anderson County, South Carolina - Donald L. Dial, Personal Representative of Lacee Michaela Dial vs. Toyota Motor Corporation, et al.
The plaintiffs are represented by Beasley Allen.