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Parents sue Toyota, say sudden acceleration caused their daughter's death [Updated]

December 22, 2010 |  4:34 pm

Fi.recinosThe parents of a young woman killed in a 2008 car crash have sued Toyota Motor Corp., contending that an electronic glitch caused the car in which their daughter was a passenger to accelerate out of control and crash in Northridge.

Kathleen Recinos, 18, of Panorama City, was killed Dec. 19, 2008, when a 2009 Toyota Scion driven by her boyfriend, Brian Martinez, "suddenly and unexpectedly accelerated," crossed into oncoming traffic on Tampa Avenue and struck two oncoming vehicles, according to the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Santa Ana.  Martinez, 18, was also killed. 

In the last year, dozens of people have sued the Japanese automaker, blaming deaths and injuries on acceleration problems that allegedly caused Toyota vehicles to crash.

Recinos and Martinez had just finished an afternoon of Christmas shopping at the Northridge Fashion Center when their car crashed, the woman's parents said in the lawsuit, filed Friday by San Francisco attorneys Elizabeth Cabraser and Todd Walburg.

Recinos was pregnant at the time of the crash, Walburg said. 

The lawsuit contends that electronic throttle control systems contained in many Toyota models are faulty and have caused hundreds of crashes. The parents also faulted Toyota for failing to include a brake override system that would have cut off the accelerator if the brake and gas pedals were applied simultaneously.

The automaker did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the latest lawsuit, but in the past has said that the throttle system is sound and that any acceleration problems were caused by sticky gas pedals or faulty floor mats that have been repaired through the recall of millions of vehicles.

[Updated at 5:37 p.m.: Toyota spokeswoman Celeste Migliore issued a statement Wednesday that repeated the carmaker's stance that its cars are safe.

"Toyota sympathizes with the individuals and families involved in any accident involving our vehicles.  However, this lawsuit is based on a wholly unsubstantiated and speculative claim that there is a defect in Toyota’s electronic throttle control system that causes unintended acceleration. However, the plaintiffs have not cited a specific cause or even alleged any facts that would support that claim, and no credible scientific theory or proof has been advanced to support the allegation."]

-- Stuart Pfeifer

Photo: Kathleen Recinos