Local family sues Toyota over woman's death

February 2, 2010 4:22:25 PM PST
A grieving husband and father is suing automaker Toyota alleging that a malfunctioning gas pedal caused his wife's 2009 Corolla to crash, killing her. Michael Harris says the death of his wife has changed his family's life in every possible way. On Monday, his attorneys filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Toyota at the Harris County Civil Court. He claims the automaker knew there were problems but did not act in time to fix them.

In times of unspeakable grief, precious memories have a way of providing spontaneous moments of joy. For Michael Harris and his mother-in-law, they're all that's left to hold onto.

Harris said, "My mother-in-law, my family, everyone lost someone they loved and cherished so much. That cannot be replaced by anything."

That someone was his wife and mother to their two daughters. Trina Harris was killed in a horrific car crash in December. Her car sped through a stop sign and smashed into a concrete wall. She died on impact. Harris was driving a 2009 Toyota Corolla, a vehicle that would later be included in the automaker's massive recall to fix mechanical problems with the accelerators.

"The gas pedal took off on her," Harris said. "I believe there was a malfunction with the car."

Harris, a US Navy petty officer, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Toyota, the gas pedal's manufacturer and the local Toyota dealer where his wife leased the car.

Attorney Kenneth Mingledorff said, "You know they built a death trap. They need to stop it. They are aware of it. They know it, they knew it. They need to put a stop to it."

The lawsuit alleges gross negligence, claiming, "The 2009 Toyota Corolla contained a defect in its accelerator pedal and that defect existed at the time the product left the manufacturer's hands."

Harris said, "We don't have closure and we don't have the answers as to why. Nothing else makes sense."

Toyota released a statement to Eyewitness News:

    "It is very important in any incident or claim, that a full and complete investigation is allowed to take its course to find the cause and speculation should be avoided."
We also tried contacting the gas pedal manufacturer. That company declined to comment.

Harris says his attorneys plan to hire a team of experts to examine the wreckage. He also says his insurance company plans to conduct its own investigation.