Toyota ordered to pay $242m for Lexus seat defect

A Texas jury found that defects in front seats of the car caused serious injuries to a Dallas family

epa06636387 The Toyota logo looms high above the showroom floor during the media preview day two at the New York International Auto Show at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York City, New York, USA, 29 March 2018. The show is open to the public from 30 March until 08 April 2018.  EPA/PETER FOLEY

A jury in Texas on Friday hit Toyota with a $242 million compensation bill after finding that defects in the front seats of a 2002 Lexus ES300 caused serious injuries to two young children in a rear-end collision in 2016.

The jury in state court in Dallas awarded $144 million in punitive damages after finding Toyota Motor  and Toyota Motor Sales were grossly negligent in the matter, according to court papers. The jury found that the front seats were unreasonably dangerous and that the company did not warn of a risk to users.

"While we respect the jury's decision, we remain confident that the injuries sustained were the result of factors specific to this very severe collision, not a defect in the design or manufacturing of the 2002 Lexus ES300," Eric Booth, a spokesman for Toyota, said. "We will consider our options moving forward."

Frank Branson, a lawyer for the family, said there were structural problems with the front seatbacks that protect front-seat passengers from injuries such as whiplash at the expense of rear-seat passengers.

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“This is a danger that Toyota has known about,” Mr Branson said. “This company has had plenty of time to design around these safety shortcomings or at least provide the public with warnings. Our children deserve better.”

The jury awarded the two children $92m for medical care, physical impairment and mental anguish, as well as other damages.

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