In August 2009 veteran California Highway Patrol officer Mark Saylor and his family were traveling in a Lexus ES350 that crashed into a riverbed and burst into flames killing all on board. The crash was blamed on ‘unintended acceleration,’ causing the car to reach speeds of more than 120 mph, before it ran off the road.
When Toyota settled with Saylor’s relatives out of court, it began a chain reaction that resulted in one of the widest and most public vehicle recall programs by any automaker in history. At the time, the actual amount of the settlement was undisclosed, instead the parties involved agreeing that the details of the agreement remain ‘private and amicable’ between Toyota, the Saylor and Lastrella families.
Now Bob Baker, owner of the Lexus dealership which loaned that ES350 to the Saylor family they drove on that fateful trip, has gone public with the amount of the settlement – $10,000,000.
Baker, which saw sales across the 10 dealers he owns in the San Diego area drop some 20 percent during the recession, was hit hard by this settlement, which he says left his business isolated and has been fighting back ever since. He continues to litigate against the families in this case who cite that negligence on the part of the dealer was to blame for the accident. An investigation by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department concluded that an ill-fitting floormat installed by Bob Baker Lexus was the cause of the crash.
Baker maintains the evidence from the accident investigation was flawed and that the real problem was caused by faulty electronics in the vehicle. He says that Toyota executives in Japan weren’t concerned about finding the true root cause of the problem, choosing to settle to avoid the real issue and instead look for a scapegoat – him.
But whether going public with the amount of this historic settlement, against the wishes of Toyota and Saylor’s relatives, will actually help Baker’s cause remains to be seen. According to a Toyota spokesman, “Mr. Baker wants the spotlight to shift away from his dealership as he continues to litigate the case with the families.” The saga continues.
[Source: Inside Line]