Jury Awards $11.4M to Toyota Crash Victims and Vindicates Innocent Man after Wrongful Conviction

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Schafer Law Firm, P.A., Co-Counsel with Hilliard Munoz Gonzales, has tried a products liability case on behalf of Koua Fong Lee, et al for $11,440,000.

This has been a journey to reveal the truth and not about money. The jury found the Toyota Camry was defective. This is the truth

Attorney Brent S. Schafer of the Schafer Law Firm, P.A. tried a motor vehicle products liability lawsuit against Toyota, Quincy Ray Adams v. Toyota Motor Corporation, et al (Civ. No. 0:10-cv-02805 ADM/JSM) in the U.S. District Court, where a federal jury awarded the plaintiffs a total of $11,440,000.00. The verdict was announced Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis. It was proven that the 1996 Toyota Camry was defective and caused a deadly accident in 2006. This verdict further vindicates Kuoa Fong Lee, who was wrongfully imprisoned for causing the crash that led to the death of three people and serious injuries to two others, who were passengers in the car that Lee struck.

The trial lasted for three weeks before Judge Ann Montgomery in federal court in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The jury reached a unanimous decision in finding that the Toyota Camry was defectively dangerous and a direct cause of the accident. The jury assigned 60% of the fault to Toyota and 40% fault to the driver.

On June 10, 2006, Kuoa Fong Lee was returning home from church in his 1996 Toyota Camry. His pregnant wife was beside him and his 8-year-old daughter and father were sitting in the backseat. He was driving from Minneapolis to his home in St. Paul when he applied his brakes at the bottom of a highway off-ramp. When he realized that the brakes did not slow the Camry down, Mr. Lee yelled to his family, "brakes not working!" according to court documents.

Court documents state that the 1996 Toyota Camry collided with an Oldsmobile Ciera. The collision pushed the Oldsmobile, which was carrying five passengers, into a turn across the intersection at which it was waiting. The driver, Javis Adams and the front seat passenger, 10-year-old Javis Adams, Jr., were killed instantly, while 6-year-old Devyn Bolton, who was sitting in the backseat, died a year later from her injuries. Two other people were injured. Mr. Lee and his family were not seriously injured.

Although Mr. Lee maintained the entire time that the failure of the brakes is what caused the accident, prosecutors argued that Lee had stepped on the gas and not the brakes. He was convicted of criminal vehicular homicide and sentenced to eight years in prison. Following his conviction, Lee fired his attorney and hired Brent Schafer. Mr. Lee sat in prison for two and a half years away from his wife and their four children. He missed the birth of his youngest daughter.

According to Attorney Brent Schafer, he reopened the case in January of 2010 after Toyota recalled millions of vehicles for sudden unintended acceleration (SUA). Schafer teamed up with Robert Hilliard of Hilliard Munoz Gonzales in Corpus Christi, Texas, a well-known products liability lawyer. Together, Schafer and Hilliard promised Lee that they would do whatever it took to get him released from prison and a new trial. In an August 2010 hearing, Hilliard and Schafer presented evidence that the 1996 Toyota Camry was defective and that they were seeking to overturn Mr. Lee's conviction. The same judge who had sentenced him to eight years in prison ordered his conviction vacated, granted his immediate release and declined to re-charge Mr. Lee.

“This has been a journey to reveal the truth and not about money. The jury found the Toyota Camry was defective. This is the truth,” says Schafer.

Court documents state that this lawsuit against Toyota included: Mr. Koua Fong Lee; his wife, Panghoua; his daughter, Jemee; his brother Nong; and his father, Nhia as plaintiffs. Also included as plaintiffs in the lawsuit were the passenger in the Oldsmobile who was severely injured, Quincy Adams; the backseat passenger, Jasmine Adams; and Bridgette Trice on behalf of the estate of Devyn Bolton, the little girl in the backseat who became a quadriplegic and then died 18 months later.

The awards per plaintiff

  •     Jasmine Adams: $4,000,000.00
  •     Quincy Adams: $1,250,000.00
  •     Koua Fong Lee: $1,250,000.00
  •     Panghoua Moua: $750,000.00
  •     Jemee Lee: $150,000.00
  •     Nhia Koua Lee: $15,000.00
  •     Nong Lee: $25,000.00
  •     The Estate of Devyn Bolton: $4,000,000.00

Source: Hilliard Munoz Gonzales LLP. (2015). Jury Finds Toyota at Fault for Crash That Sent Innocent Man to Prison -- Awards $11,440,000.00 [Press Release] Retrieved from http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/jury-finds-toyota-at-fault-for-crash-that-sent-innocent-man-to-prison----awards-1144000000-300030457.html

Attorney Brent Schafer stated, “This has been a case we have worked on since the day we secured Koua Fong Lee's release from prison. My clients are happy it is over and that the jury took the time to understand the case and agreed their Camry was defective.

There are no real winners in cases like these. Toyota's conduct and the resulting tragedy has changed the lives of all involved. A verdict against Toyota simply and once and for all confirms what Koua Fong Lee has always maintained – that he was pushing the brake and not the gas.”

About the Firm

Established in 2001, Schafer Law Firm, P.A. practices criminal defense throughout the state of Minnesota and personal injury throughout the nation, focusing on North Dakota oil field injuries. Mr. Schafer is a published author and frequent lecturer at continuing legal education seminars. He has appeared on CNN, ABC World News Tonight, MSNBC, Fox Morning News, ABC’s Good Morning America and all local St. Paul and Minneapolis news stations. For more information about the firm, please go to: http://www.schaferlawfirm.com/ or call 651-209-1919.

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