A Nassau County woman who says she suffered serious injuries because her Toyota Prius refused to stop last year on the Wantagh Parkway is among a growing number suing the carmaker in connection with alleged incidents of "unintended acceleration."
The woman, Maria Kerins, 47, of Wantagh, filed the suit with her husband, Robert, on Feb. 24 in State Supreme Court in Mineola, seeking unspecified damages.
Court papers and her attorney, Ted Trief of Manhattan, say she was driving home from work May 13 when her 2005 Prius was struck by another vehicle on the parkway.
She tried to stop, but her vehicle continued to accelerate, the suit claims, causing her car to strike a third vehicle, leave the road and roll over three times. The suit also claims the car's air bags failed to properly deploy and her seat belt "improperly released."
Trief, who declined to make his client available for interviews, said she suffered spinal injuries that required 10 weeks of hospital treatment, including surgery, and have left her unable to return to her job as a computer instructor at the United Nations. "She's in constant pain," Trief said.
Spokesman Brian Lyons at Toyota's U.S. headquarters in California said company policy is to decline to comment on pending lawsuits.
Kerins' Prius is not among the 2010 models of the hybrid car being recalled for possibly defective anti-lock braking software that can affect the car's ability to stop.
It is, however, among the 2004 through 2009 model-year Priuses included in another recall of certain Toyota and Lexus vehicles for possible entrapment of accelerators beneath floor mats. But Trief said his client does not believe the mat in her car played a role in its alleged failure to stop.
Since September, Toyota has recalled more than 8 million vehicles worldwide, including 2.3 million for possibly sticking accelerator pedals and certain 2010 Tacoma pickup trucks for possible drive-shaft failure.
It's unknown how many suits Toyota is facing that allege product defects, but The Associated Press said Tuesday that, by its count, at least 89 "class action" lawsuits are pending on behalf of Toyota and Lexus owners who claim the value of their vehicles has been reduced because of Toyota's alleged mishandling of the controversy, including allegedly delaying recalls.
Another Nassau County resident filed such a suit in Mineola in February.