Westchester Family Sues Toyota Over Crash That Killed 5-Year-Old Son

Accident blamed on sudden acceleration, put mother in a coma for six days

By Jeremy Boxerbaum
|  Friday, Mar 19, 2010  |  Updated 8:45 AM EDT
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Nancy Murtha's 5-year-old son was killed when her 2008 Lexus RX350 suddenly accelerated and crashed.

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"It was a sunny Tuesday morning in July and Jake was excited that he was going to a birthday party that afternoon."

That's how Nancy Murtha of Cortlandt Manor remembers the day her 5-year-old son Jake was killed in a car accident.

Now, Murtha and her husband, Daniel, are suing Toyota, claiming a sudden acceleration problem with the company's 2008 Lexus RX350 is to blame for Jake's death.

The crash happened July 29, 2008, on Watch Hill Road in Westchester County.

Nancy Murtha says the car crashed after she tried to slow down and pull over to help Jake with something.

"As I hit the brake, the car wouldn't stop.  It just kept on going," she says in a prepared statement.

Instead of stopping, the Lexus slammed into a wall.

Jake was rushed to Westchester County Medical Center, but he died several hours later.

According to the lawsuit filing, Murtha also suffered severe injuries to her neck, back, right knee and right hip, and doctors removed her spleen and part of her intestines.

She was in a coma for six days.

"Jake was our youngest son and was loved by our family," Murtha said. "We miss him dearly and have been devastated by his loss."

Toyota now faces more than 80 lawsuits focusing on sudden acceleration claims.

The Murthas say the automaker already knew in 2008 that it had a problem with the electronic system in its cars but tried to hide it instead of fixing it.

Toyota still denies that electronic problems have anything to do with the sudden acceleration issue.

The company has recalled 8 million vehicles to fix what it calls sticky accelerators or floor mats that don't fit properly and might cause the accelerator to get stuck.

However, the Lexus RX350 was not among the cars recalled.

The Toyota Prius has been among the vehicles recalled. Recently, a housekeeper blamed sudden acceleration for propelling the Prius she was driving into a stone wall. Investigators discredited that claim Thursday. They determined that the woman, who said she had applied the brakes, in fact failed to use them, and that -- not a faulty braking system -- was to blame for the crash.

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