MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Attorneys for Toyota Motor Corp. asked a federal judge on Monday to dismiss most of the claims filed by a Minnesota man who was incarcerated after a fatal crash involving a 1996 Camry, saying the automaker had no direct connection to events that put Koua Fong Lee in prison.

Lee, 33, was freed last year after serving more than 2 1/2 years. He sued Toyota, claiming he and family members suffered distress from either his incarceration or from the crash itself.

In documents filed Monday in U.S. District Court, attorneys for Toyota said many of Lee’s claims are without legal merit and should be dismissed. Among them, they said Lee can’t claim damages for his incarceration because any alleged wrongful conduct by Toyota could not have directly caused his trial and imprisonment.

“The reality, of course, is that many independent actors — including police, prosecutors, defense counsel and jurors — played pivotal causative roles in sending Koua Fong Lee to prison,” Toyota’s attorneys wrote.

Lee has maintained that he did everything he could to stop as his 1996 Camry sped up a freeway exit ramp in St. Paul and smashed into an Oldsmobile in June 2006, killing three people and severely injuring two others in the Oldsmobile. He was convicted of criminal vehicular homicide and sentenced to eight years in prison.

His case was reopened after reports surfaced about sudden acceleration problems in certain Toyota models. The automaker ordered millions of recalls, and the government fined it $16.4 million for failing to quickly disclose what it knew about sticking accelerators.

At a hearing last August, defense investigators presented new evidence and testimony backing up Lee’s story, persuading a judge to vacate his conviction and grant him a new trial. Prosecutors dropped the case.

Those injured in the crash and family members of those who died sued Toyota in federal court, and Lee joined their case with his own claim for damages. Attorneys for the automaker filed documents Monday asking that many of the allegations be dismissed — which would essentially pare down the lawsuits to just a handful of claims.

A judge will decide how the cases will go forward.

Among other things, attorneys for Toyota said Monday that allegations of fraud should be dismissed, because evidence used to support those claims pertains to vehicles made and sold after the 1996 Camry, which was not part of the recalls.

They also said Lee’s children who weren’t in the vehicle during the crash can’t claim emotional distress because they weren’t within the “zone of danger;” and Lee can’t claim damages for injuries unless there are physical manifestations.

Lee’s lawsuit alleges that he required psychological counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder because of both the accident and his imprisonment. It says he now has trouble sleeping and requires sleeping medication.

Toyota released a statement saying it sympathizes with the families affected, but that the plaintiffs’ claims are without merit. The company said the 1996 Camry has an excellent 15-year safety record.

“Additionally, Mr. Lee’s unfortunate incarceration did not occur because of anything done by Toyota, and it defies both common sense and the law to hold Toyota responsible,” the company said.

Toyota faces hundreds of lawsuits around the country over allegations of sudden acceleration problems.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (18)
  1. tonya says:

    It wasn’t the cars fault. Lee was driving way to fast. The car had nothing to do with this accident. I believe Lee belongs behind bars.

    1. Risk says:

      and… If you are wrong tonya than you will risk suffering the same fate someday.

    2. Tim says:

      Who know who’s right. Wait until your turn then you can tell who’s fault, But dishonest always and will fall into the hole of Hell.

    3. Pitb says:

      Tonya you are not God you can not judge anybody. Find out yourself someday.

    4. TrafficJam says:

      The final say belongs to the victim’s family and they certainly do not think it was Lee’s fault.

    5. Tbeaun says:

      Gee Tonya, you certainly are a moron & probably a bigot as well.

    6. Happy it's not me living with you says:

      tonya …. you got the facts and engineering reports on this particular car to back this up? Nope …. so shut the flapper until you do. ;-O

  2. Chuck says:

    Stubid peoples don’t let them breed, if you don’t know how to opperates the car then don’t try to kill others.

    1. JLD says:

      wow really? You can’t spell and still have enough nerve to imply that “they” shouldn’t breed? wow, that takes guts.

  3. 1996 Camry driver says:

    I have a 1996 Toyota Camry V6. Even though the car has high mileage, it drives comfortably. I’m pretty satisfied with it.

  4. Jim says:

    He is Guilty. 96 Toyota Camry do not have the “Drive by Wire” system that cars to now. there is a physical cable attached from the petal to the throttle. Even if the cable was in poor condition it is the car owners responsibility to properly take care of their vehicles outside of manufactures recalls. He only got out due to the emotional environment of the time and had the other Toyota issues never happened he would have not been released. He was convicted by a jury of his peers so Toyota is not to blame anyways.

    1. Mark says crappola at Jim says:

      got news for you Jim – many of that year have had issues. Hell – GM and Ford and Honda and Lexus and Benz and …. they all have isolated issues.
      Now if you were him and that happened you’d be crying in your milk and elsewhere.
      You got an issue with race? Or work for Toyota or something?
      Bury your head in the sand again now huh. 😉

  5. Kevin says:

    Me love you long time…..welcome to diversity….

  6. Nguyen says:

    We are all missing the big picture here and that is that lives were lost that day. People are going to point fingers at each other, that’s just reality and the way its going to be. Please don’t make a mockery out of this case. It’s sad to see some of your remarks and comments regarding this tragic event that occurred. Put yourselves in their shoes, both sides…EXACTLY ….

  7. whatever says:

    No vehicle is powerful enough to speed up, up hill on an exit ramp, while you are pressing hard on the brakes or “doing everything you can to stop” at the speeds he was driving. Just try it. Try speeding up while pressing hard on your brakes, your car will slow down.

  8. Rick Krenske says:

    Also, can’t you just put the car’s shift into neutral and turn the key to OFF. That’s what I would do if my car was trying to run away from me.

    1. JLD says:

      That’s what you THINK you would do, but in reality, NONE of us knows for certain what we would or wouldn’t (or even could or couldn’t) do in the face of something so horrifying and scary.

  9. Kme says:

    JLD you just full of BS. if you first time got the car what would you do? read the manual will you….understanding the car.. or now how to operate it…if you don’t do it and then you don’t even think seat that that driver seat. The car is a ticket to kill….

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