Family of woman killed in Southlake crash sues Toyota

The family of one of four people killed in a Dec. 26 accident in Southlake filed a lawsuit Thursday against Toyota Motor Corp., alleging that the wreck was due to a defect that caused the 2008 Toyota Avalon to suddenly accelerate.

It is at least the third lawsuit filed recently against Toyota in Texas stemming from fatal accidents. The suits allege that the vehicles suddenly sped out of control, a circumstance cited in a number of other fatal accidents around the country involving Toyota.

Toyota has recently recalled more than 8 million late-model vehicles, including 2005-10 model Avalons, to fix floor mat and gas pedal problems it said could potentially cause unintended acceleration.

Dallas lawyer Todd Tracy, who specializes in auto-safety litigation, filed his lawsuit in Dallas on behalf of the family of Sharon Ransom, 56, of Grapevine.

Ransom was a passenger in the car driven by Monty Hardy, 56, of Southlake.

According to the Southlake Police Department's accident report, Hardy was driving the Avalon north on Lonesome Dove Road about 11:20 a.m. the day after Christmas.

The vehicle failed to stop at a T-intersection with Burney Lane.

The Avalon crossed the road at a speed later estimated at 47 mph, went down an embankment, through a metal fence, struck a tree and became airborne, landing upside down in a 6-foot-deep pond.

Police and bystanders arrived at the scene and attempted to rescue the occupants from the icy water, but were able to get only one unconscious passenger out before the vehicle was pulled out of the water about 30 minutes after the accident.

Hardy and one passenger, Hadassah Vance, 35, of Euless were pronounced dead at the scene.

Ransom and Wendy Akin, 38, of Irving died in a Grapevine hospital.

The four were all members of a Jehovah's Witnesses congregation and were calling on residents in the area.

The police report said there were no signs that Hardy attempted to brake.

One witness, a driver in an oncoming car, reported that she could not see the driver.

Linda Hardy, wife of the driver, told police that the Avalon previously had acceleration problems.

Linda Hardy also told police that her husband had seizures, for which he was taking medication.

Linda Hardy has not filed a lawsuit, but her attorney, Randy Roberts of Tyler, said the autopsy report showed no evidence that Hardy had a seizure at the time of the accident and that he was sitting upright in his seat.

Toyota said Thursday that it does not comment on pending litigation or investigations.

Tracy filed a similar lawsuit Monday in federal court in Marshall, in East Texas, on behalf of the family of a Marshall man killed in a Nov. 6 accident involving a 2007 Lexus ES350, a Toyota model.

Another suit was filed in Houston on Feb. 1, stemming from a fatal wreck in December.

BOB COX, 817-390-7723