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Toyota settles lawsuit for $1 billion

Toyota Motor Corp. will pay more than $1 billion to settle a class-action lawsuit related to sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles. But the agreement does not resolve dozens of personal injury and wrongful-death suits against Toyota, including one filed by Colleen Krause of Keene, whose husband, Stephen, died in a Peterborough accident in October 2009 after the rented 2005 Chevrolet Malibu that he was driving was hit head-on by a speeding 2002 Toyota Highlander on Route 202.

“This is a positive step for us,” Colleen Krause said on Friday about the Toyota settlement. “This was strictly an economic loss class-action suit. Ours is for individual damages, for the families of people who lost their lives. Unfortunately it will never bring a husband and father back.”

The driver of the Toyota that hit Krause’s car, Stephen Lagakos of Wellesley, Mass., and Lagakos’s wife and his mother, who were passengers in the Toyota, also died in the accident.

Peterborough police said witnesses reported the Toyota, which was northbound on Route 202, had passed one vehicle on the right at a high rate of speed, then attempted to pass another vehicle on the left and entered the southbound lane before hitting Krause’s car.

Colleen Krause said their was no apparent reason why Lagakos, a 63-year-old Harvard professor, would have been driving so rapidly with his wife and mother in the car.

“It’s good they are moving forward. Maybe we’ll get to the bottom of the accident,” Krause said. “It never added up. I’m hoping we’ll eventually find out what happened.”

The Lagakos children are also parties to the class-action suit filed by accident victims and their families. Krause said that suit is being handled in California and she had no new information on its progress.

Krause said she will not be receiving any compensation through the recent settlement, which applies only to owners of Toyota vehicles.

The settlement agreement filed last week in U.S. District Court in California will pay for repairs and extended warranties on vehicles. It will also reimburse Toyota owners who may have lost money when they sold or traded in vehicles during the period when wide publicity about unintended acceleration may have reduced resale values.

Under the settlement, which still needs to be approved in court, Toyota agreed to retrofit vehicles that were subject to a floor mat recall after complaints about sudden acceleration surfaced. Owners of those vehicles can have a brake override system installed.

In a statement released Wednesday, Christopher Reynolds, Toyota’s chief legal officer, said, “We concluded that turning the page on this legacy legal issue through the positive steps we are taking is in the best interests of the company, our employees, our dealers and, most of all, our customers.”

Toyota is taking a $1.1 billion charge against earnings to cover the estimated cost of the economic loss settlement and possible resolution of civil litigation against the company.

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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