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Wrongful death case against Toyota regarding fatal Peterborough crash to move forward

Toyota agreed this week to a more than $1 billion settlement as part of a class-action lawsuit stemming from unintended acceleration in its vehicles. But a separate lawsuit alleging the defect caused a fatal 2009 Peterborough crash is still ongoing, according to a lawyer for the victims’ families.

The lawsuit alleges that Toyota could have prevented the malfunction that caused unintended acceleration in Toyota Highlanders. Stephen Lagakos was driving a Highlander on Oct. 12, 2009, when he was unable to stop by applying his breaks, crossed the center line of Route 202 and struck another car, according to the lawsuit.

Lagakos, a Harvard professor, was killed in the crash along with his wife, Regina, his mother, Helen, and the driver of the other car, Stephen Krause.

Scott Harris, one of the lawyers working on the lawsuit filed in October by the victims’ families, said this case pertains specifically to wrongful death while the settlement relates to economic loss claims. In that class-action suit, owners alleged the value of their vehicles dropped because of several recalls following the unintended acceleration complaints.

Harris, a lawyer at Manchester’s McLane, Graf, Raulerson and Middleton law firm, said because the economic loss and wrongful death cases share the notion of Toyota’s liability, he’s encouraged by this week’s settlement.

“One would think that having settled the economic loss cases that there may be room to settle the wrongful death cases,” he said.

The wrongful death lawsuit was originally filed in federal court in New Hampshire but was transferred to California, where it has been consolidated with similar cases. Harris said that court will likely try a handful of the wrongful death lawsuits, with the outcomes possibly leading to a settlement.

Todd Walburg, the California-based lawyer who is primarily handling the families’ lawsuit, did not return a request for comment yesterday.

(Tricia L. Nadolny can be reached at 369-3306 or tnadolny@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @tricia_nadolny.)

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