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Toyota not liable for woman’s death, jury rules

LOS ANGELES — A jury found Thursday that Toyota Motor Corp. is not liable for the death of a California woman who was killed when her 2006 Camry apparently accelerated and crashed despite her efforts to stop it.

Jurors deliberated for about five days before reaching their decision and concluding the vehicle’s design didn’t contribute to the death of 66-year-old Noriko Uno, who died in August 2009 when she was struck by another motorist.

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Uno’s family was seeking $20 million in damages, claiming that the crash could have been avoided if Toyota had installed a brake override system. The jury found the 86-year-old motorist who ran a stop sign and hit Uno should pay the family $10 million, plaintiffs’ attorney Garo Mardirossian said.

Toyota blamed driver error for the crash.

The company recalled millions of vehicles worldwide after drivers reported some Toyota vehicles were surging unexpectedly. It already has agreed to pay $1 billion in lawsuits filed in federal courts.

The outcome of the lawsuit involving Uno could influence whether Toyota should be held responsible in a larger group of similar lawsuits filed in state courts.

‘‘As an important bellwether in these consolidated state proceedings, we believe this verdict sets a significant benchmark by helping further confirm that Toyota vehicles are safe with or without brake override,’’ Toyota spokeswoman Carly Schaffner said.

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Toyota said the vehicle had a state of the art braking system and argued an override component would not have prevented the crash. The company’s lawyers said Uno likely mistook the gas pedal for the brake.

Toyota has blamed the driver, stuck accelerators, or floor mats that trapped the gas pedal for the sudden unintended acceleration claims that led to the massive recall of its vehicles.

Federal lawsuits contend that Toyota’s electronic throttle control system was defective and caused vehicles to surge suddenly.

Toyota has denied the allegation, and neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor NASA found evidence of electronic problems. A trial in one of the lead cases is scheduled for early November.

The Uno case is the first so-called ‘‘bellwether’’ case in state courts, which is chosen by a judge to help predict the potential outcome of other lawsuits making similar claims.

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