Clarksville death linked to Toyota recall

Updated: November 23, 2009
CLARKSVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

The death of a Clarksville man is linked now to the largest recall ever in Toyota's history.

A $10 million lawsuit filed against Toyota from a Clarksville family is the latest development in a two-year investigation by the Channel 4 I-Team into cases of sudden acceleration by Toyota Tacoma pickup trucks.

The Tacoma is among of the 3.8 million vehicles recalled by Toyota, as is the Camry.

When Dustin Ricardo's 2007 Camry crashed, he left behind his girlfriend and their then-1½-year-old daughter.

"Adalynn wants to know about her daddy, where her daddy is," said Chrissy Ricardo, Dustin Ricardo's girlfriend.

It is in Adalynn's name that her family is suing Toyota for $10 million, alleging, among other defects, the Camry was equipped with an unsecured all-weather floor mat.

According to the lawsuit filed two months ago, that floor mat jammed underneath the pedal and caused Dustin Ricardo to accelerate off Needmore Road in Clarksville, crash into a tree and die.

"What I believed happened is that Dustin Ricardo, when he got in and out of his car, unbeknownst to him, what he was actually doing, he was scooting the floor mat up toward the gas pedal," said Mike Rowan, an attorney suing Toyota.

Toyota took action in September after a family of four in San Diego crashed and died. Their rented Toyota vehicle had all-weather floor mats and accelerated out of control while they were calling 911.

So, Toyota recalled Camrys, Tacoma trucks and four other models, specifically citing unsecured floor mats.

A spokesman for Toyota told the I-Team on Monday that they do not comment on pending litigation but did say, "We are looking at making changes to the vehicle itself. I want to make it clear it isn't just (a) floor mat issue; we're looking at making physical changes to the vehicle."

The Channel 4 I-team has learned of a second lawsuit involving an accident and alleging that loose floor mats clearly weren't an issue.

A lawsuit from of Montgomery, Ala., says best friends Jean Bookout and Barbara Schwartz were driving in Bookout's Toyota Camry when the car suddenly accelerated, crashed and killed Schwartz.

"When she took her foot off the gas, it started taking off, speeding up, even," said Graham Esdale, an attorney suing Toyota.

Bookout received extensive injuries as well.

"Isn't it possible that this is just another case of a floor mat jamming under the gas pedal and causing this accident?" asked reporter Jeremy Finley.

"It is not. It is impossible," said Esdale.

Bookout's attorney said photographs from the Camry show the floor mat still clipped in place, and no obvious sign of the floor mat jamming under the gas pedal.

"There is strong evidence that there is something else is going on," said Esdale.

This isn't the first time the public has heard that floor mats may not be the entire problem.

Three Toyota drivers all previously told the I-team they experienced sudden acceleration in their Toyotas and their floor mats didn't jam underneath the pedals.

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