(CN) – Top Toyota officials can’t be forced to provide depositions in a wrongful-death lawsuit involving a sudden acceleration, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled.
Lilia Alberto sued Toyota Motor Corp. after her husband, Guadalupe, died when his Toyota Camry crashed into a pair of trees.
Guadalupe was driving 25 mph when the car suddenly accelerated to 80 mph, and he was unable to apply the brakes.
Lilia sought the depositions of Toyota President Jim Lentz and Chairman Yoshimi Inaba.
Toyota asked to quash the deposition request, arguing that their testimonies were unnecessary for the cause of justice, and that the officers were not involved in the design and manufacture of the 2005 Toyota Camry.
Although the trial court found that Lentz and Inaba were high-ranking officials, it refused to block the depositions.
The appeals court reversed the decision and vacated the order, citing the “apex deposition” rule, which shields top officials from this kind of lawsuit.
“Inaba and Lentz had only generalized knowledge of Toyota’s unintended acceleration problems, but had no unique or superior knowledge of or role in designing the subject vehicle or in implementing manufacturing or testing processes,” Judge Henry Saad wrote.