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Survivor of 2009 Crash Files Lawsuit

Philip Pretty was injured when a Lexus with a stuck gas pedal struck his SUV at more than 100 mph.

A Santee man who survived a fiery collision with an out-of-control Lexus that killed four people in 2009 filed a lawsuit Thursday against Bob Baker Lexus El Cajon, Toyota Motor Corp. and Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc., according to his attorney.

Philip Pretty was turning left from state Route 125 onto Mission Gorge Road on Aug. 28, 2009, when his Ford Explorer was struck by a Lexus that was speeding behind him at more than 100 mph due to a stuck accelerator. All four people in the Lexus were killed after the car flipped and burst into flames.

Pretty was hospitalized with a concussion and injuries to a shoulder and knee. The lawsuit—filed by Gayle M. Blatt, a partner with San Diego-based Casey Gerry—seeks compensatory damages for product liability and damages, and includes a claim for punitive damages, according to a statement by the law firm.

The crash made headlines nationwide. An investigation found that an improper floor mat caused the gas pedal on the Lexus to become stuck and the driver, California Highway Patrol Officer Mark Saylor, was unable to slow the car down. Toyota recalled more than 4 million vehicles following the investigation’s findings.

Saylor, his wife Cleofe, their 13-year-old daughter, Mahala, and passenger Chris Lastrella were killed. Lastrella was Saylor’s brother-in-law.

Saylor was loaned the 2009 ES 350 Lexus by Bob Baker Lexus El Cajon when he dropped his car off at the dealership to be serviced. News reports said that a man who previously drove the loaner Lexus reported acceleration problems to the dealership when he returned it.

“Toyota had numerous complaints of sudden unintended acceleration and improper speed control—in similarly designed vehicles—spanning years prior to this incident,” Blatt said in a statement. “That car should not have been on the road, and my client, who is still struggling with the emotional aftermath of this horrific crash, wants to make sure this will not happen again.”

Kathy August 19, 2011 at 12:58 AM
This man deserves as much as he can be awarded. Toyota caused the lives of 4 innocent and 1 with severe injuries, not to mention the memories he will have to deal with the rest of his life. Corporate greed needs to be stopped before it claims even more lives. Rest in peace Phillip, Cleofe, Mahala and Chris, gone too soon. The cost of your lives has no doubt, prevented many from a tragic ending, as your did. Santee will always hold all of you, in our hearts and memories forever.
Jack M. Looney August 19, 2011 at 05:00 PM
I have been interested in this crash since I first heard about it because I own a 2005 Toyota Camry and the accident happened close to where I live. I am a retired auto mechanic and was concerned whether my car had a cable operated throttle control or was it electronic. My examanation revealed it was electronic. As I remember, the first recall was for the accessory rubber floormats which Toyota said could possibly trap the accelerator pedal. My car does not have these, but I did notice that my original carpeted mats were not anchored at the rear of the floor. There apparently were two plactic pins securing the rear of the carpet which could have easily been broken at a car wash. I further checked to see that if the carpet slid forward, could it trap the the accelerator pedal in the wide open position....this did not seem possible. Toyota's next recall was to replace the accelerator pedal which they said a pin could become corroded and cause the pedal to stick. This seemed unlikely unless there was a water leak onto the pedal somewhere. My 2005 model was not included in the recall which started with the 2007 year models. I learned about "brake over-ride" systems on some cars with electronic throttle controls where if the brakes were applied when the throttle was wide open,the throttle control would be cancelled. I have now learned that all new(2011) Toyota's have that feature, but the older models didn't.. Has Toyota dodged the bullet?
FRANKOK August 19, 2011 at 11:13 PM
I still believe there is a rare electronics double glitch. No way can a mat cause full throttle down - think about it - and Saylor had pulled over on the berm at slow speed earlier - seen by witnesses. Toyota's biggest mistake - not installing brake override - an easy computer mod. They were installing it for free on older models if your computer had enough memory. I would insist on it if I owned one. If they say no then have it done and just don't pay. I once had some work done after an accident and the dealer did not tighten power steering linkage - lost it in a parking lot at slow speed and no accident - garage nearby tightened it. A month later I had a bunch of other work done by the dealer and asked for the keys and said goodby.

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