Coralville pair sues Toyota, claims van caught fire spontaneously

Fire was 'result of a malfunction or defect,' suit alleges

A Coralville man is suing Toyota Motor Sales and the family that operates the Toyota-Scion dealership in Iowa City after he says his 2011 Sienna spontaneously caught fire while parked.

Eunjin Chung and Hyeon Keol Kim state in their lawsuit that they bought the Sienna from Dreusicke Holdings, Inc. at the Iowa City dealership before May 12, 2012. On May 12, according to the lawsuit filed last week in Johnson County District Court, Kim parked the vehicle at 1660 Sycamore Street in Iowa City and the Sienna “caught fire and was subsequently destroyed.”

According to the lawsuit, the fire “was the result of a malfunction or defect.” The suit doesn’t elaborate on what the defect might have been. The vehicle was so badly damaged that the cost to fix it was exorbitant, according to the suit.

Chung and Kim are suing for breach of implied warranty of fitness, breach of implied warranty of merchantability, breach of express warranty, negligence, design defect and manufacturing defect.

“The defect described above was not the result of any accident, misuse, negligence on the part of the plaintiffs or any other operator of the automobile,” according to the lawsuit. “The 2011 Toyota Sienna and its component parts were defective as to design.”

The pair is asking for a judgment to “wholly and fully and fairly” compensate them for their losses, according to the lawsuit.

Toyota Motor Corporation has dealt with recalls and fines of late – although none related to the spontaneous combustion of their vehicles. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced last month that Toyota had agreed to pay $17.35 million in response to the assertion that it failed to report a safety defect in a timely manner.

In early 2012, the administration began noticing a trend in floor mat pedals becoming entrapped in 2010 Lexus RX 350s, according to administration officials. In June, Toyota told the administration about 63 alleged incidents of pedal entrapment causing in some cases unwanted acceleration.

Toyota at that time recalled 154,036 2010 Lexus RX 350s.

The automaker also has paid penalties for violations stemming from steering relay rod recalls.