FORT LAUDERDALE (CN) – A woman blames Toyota for her daughter’s death by carbon monoxide poisoning, because its Smart Key system let her Lexus keep running silently without a key in the ignition. Toyota faced a similar complaint in New York last October.
Kimberlin Nickles sued Toyota, and auto dealer JM Lexus, in Broward County Court. She also sued Marbella Premium Apartments, where her daughter lived, for failure to provide a safe ventilation system.
Nickles says her daughter, Chasity Glisson, parked her Lexus in the garage below her townhouse and accidentally left it running. She says Glisson “either inadvertently forgot to shut down the engine of the subject vehicle or pushed the start/stop button in an effort to do so but was unsuccessful.”
“Presumably, after exiting the vehicle, plaintiff’s decedent, Chasity Glisson, did not realize the subject vehicle was running when she entered her home with the key fob. Upon information and belief, Toyota designs the subject model vehicle’s engine to be virtually soundless and smooth, and, as a result, plaintiff’s decedent, Chasity Glisson, could not hear the idling engine as she exited the vehicle and entered her home with the key fob.”
Nickles says family and friends worried when they didn’t hear from Glisson and her companion, co-plaintiff Timothy Maddock. They alerted the police, who entered the apartment the next evening to find Glisson “with no pulse or respiration” and Maddock “unable to speak or move.”
Glisson died of carbon monoxide poisoning, and Maddock suffered debilitating injuries.
Nickles says that “new technology, such as Toyota’s electronic key system, requires a change to basic and deep-rooted consumer behavior. For instance, consumers using the electronic key system no longer have to turn the key and remove it from the ignition. This may lead to foreseeable errors, such as mistakenly leaving the vehicle running after exiting the automobile.
“In addition, this keyless ignition technology permits an operator to inadvertently remove the key fob from the vehicle while the vehicle is still running.”
Toyota’s Smart Key technology uses a computerized keyless device to send signals to an antenna inside the vehicle to start the car.
Nickles says, “the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has received multiple complaints from consumers that have exited their cars with the key fob on their person and mistakenly left the vehicle’s engine running.”
A woman in Queens, N.Y., filed a similar lawsuit in October 2010, claiming her partner was killed and she was permanently injured in the same scenario.
Nickles adds: “Because the ‘Smart Key’ technology is a convenience feature and, in general, new technology that permits an operator to remove the key fob from the vehicle while the vehicle is running, it creates certain safety risks that did not exist with the traditional key technology, including the risk of carbon monoxide gas being emitted from the vehicle while the driver, along with the key, are no longer in the vehicle.”
She says Toyota ignored these “foreseeable risks” and failed “to install an automatic shut-off or shut-down switch in the event a consumer inadvertently leaves the vehicle running with the key fob on their person.”
She seeks damages for wrongful death, negligence and product liability. She is represented by Robert Kelley with Kelley Uustal.