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Mitsubishi Motors To Pay Damages To Family of Man Killed In Crash

Dec 23, 2004 | AP

Japanese automaker Mitsubishi dogged by scandals over its coverups of auto defects has reached a settlement with the family of a man who died in a crash caused by a design flaw, a company official said Thursday.

The agreement was reached with relatives of a 39-year-old driver killed in an accident triggered by a clutch-design defect in a Mitsubishi truck he drove, said Fumio Nishizaki, a spokesman for Mitsubishi Motors Corp.

The truck crashed into a concrete embankment in western Japan after its brakes failed on Oct. 19, 2002.

Nishizaki said he could not disclose terms of the settlement because of an agreement with the victim's family members.

The Yomiuri newspaper reported that Mitsubishi Motors agreed to pay the family an unidentified amount in damages, apologized, and promised to prevent a recurrence. The family, meanwhile, promised not to file a civil suit against the automaker, the newspaper said citing unnamed people involved in the talks.

"We keenly feel our responsibility for causing a painful accident of this," Mitsubishi Motors President Hideyasu Tagaya said in a statement released Wednesday.

Tagaya said the automaker will do its utmost to ensure the safety of its vehicles.

Two of four former Mitsubishi Motors officials charged with professional negligence in the same crash also reached settlements with the family members, Nishizaki said.

Earlier this year, the Tokyo-based automaker and a truck affiliate spun off from the company, Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corp., said they had failed to disclose all the problems with their vehicles in 2000 when public apologies had been offered for previous cover-ups and continued to conceal design problems.

The revelation that the company hadn't come clean stunned the Japanese public and sent Mitsubishi vehicle sales plummeting.

In the last several months, after another investigation into systematic cover-ups extending back at least 25 years, Mitsubishi Motors has announced more than 40 recalls of its vehicles.

In an opening court session for the professional negligence trial at the Yokohama District Court on Oct. 5, Yuzo Murata, a former executive overseeing truck operations, and Tatsuro Nakagami, the former head of quality control, acknowledged they failed to take appropriate safety measures.

Two other executives - Katsuhiko Kawasoe, the former head of Mitsubishi Motors, and former Mitsubishi Fuso chairman, Takashi Usami - are still contesting professional negligence charges and did not settle with the victim's family, Nishizaki said.

Two other Mitsubishi Motors officials have been charged with professional negligence in another fatal accident in which a wheel flew off a truck and crushed a pedestrian in January 2002.

The charge of professional negligence resulting in death carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison or fines of 500,000 yen ($4,800 US) upon conviction.

Mitsubishi Motors is about 20 per cent owned by DaimlerChrysler AG of Germany. The automaker spun off its truck division in January 2003.

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