Toyota's (NYSE: TM) Legal Team Unable to Squash Class-Action Lawsuite

Toyota's (NYSE: TM) Legal Team Unable to Squash Class-Action Lawsuit-Image via Wikipedia

A Federal judge has rejected Toyota’s (NYSE: TM) efforts to dismiss a class-action lawsuit that seeks damages related to unintended acceleration by Toyota vehicles.

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U.S. District Judge James Selna ruled that the attorneys representing owners of Toyota vehicles demonstrated to the court that they have sufficient evidence to allow the case to move forward.

“We are very pleased with Judge Selna’s ruling, and look forward to moving forward with a case that is very important to tens of millions of Toyota owners,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman and co-lead council representing the economic loss class members.  “We believe – and intend to prove – that Toyota knew the gravity of this issue, and failed to warn consumers, or take action to address the serious problem of unintended acceleration.”

In his earlier ruling, Judge Selna wrote: “The record number of complaints made by Toyota customers shows that Toyota was clearly aware of the alleged SUA problem. Although Toyota discounts plaintiffs’ allegations of an SUA defect, the amassed weight of these complaints suggests that plaintiffs’ [SUA instances] were not isolated cases.”

The lawsuit claims Toyota knew that vehicles with an electronic throttle control system could unintentionally lurch forward or accelerate, but the automaker allegedly refused to install a brake-override or fail-safe system in an effort to meet its profitability and production goals.

Toyota unsuccessfully refuted these claims during a hearing last week, saying plaintiffs did not identify an actual defect that would cause vehicles to unintentionally accelerate nor did they suffer any monetary loss.

“Aside from the overall victory in allowing the case to move forward, Judge Selna agreed with many of our underlying arguments in the case, including our contention that Toyota owners who did not experience SUA could still bring a claim because they overpaid for their vehicles, buying cars that were not worth as much as a car free of these defects,” Berman said.

While Judge Selna ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor in the majority of the claims, he did uphold Toyota’s claim for revocation – the option for plaintiffs to return their cars for refunds – and charges of unjust enrichment.  He allowed plaintiffs to replead the revocation claim.

According to the lawsuit, Toyota’s engineers and employees could replicate sudden, unintended accelerations, and consumers who participated in the recalls that supposedly fixed the problem still have cars which accelerate unexpectedly. The lawsuit also indicates that Toyota technicians could not identify the exact cause of the acceleration problems, but on many occasions ruled out pedals and floor mats as the cause.

Attorneys contend that Toyota vehicles installed with an electronic throttle control system needed a fail-safe mechanism – a standard feature offered by many other automotive manufacturers – to stop acceleration problems and keep consumers safe. Toyota internally acknowledged this issue as early as 2007, but did not install an appropriate fail-safe as recommended by its very own engineers.

The complaint identifies at least 55 different Toyota makes and models that featured an electronic throttle control system with no fail-safe system installed.

Attorneys representing consumers and businesses suffering from economic losses seek to recover restitution for economic losses, and an injunction requiring that Toyota have these vehicles repaired properly.

About Hagens Berman

Seattle-based Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP represents whistleblowers, investors and consumers in complex and class-action litigation. The firm has offices in Boston, Chicago, Colorado Springs, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Founded in 1993, HBSS continues to successfully fight for investor rights in large, complex litigation. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at www.hbsslaw.com. Visit the firm’s class-action law blog at www.classactionlawtoday.com.

Contact: Mark Firmani, Firmani + Associates Inc., 206.443.9357 or mark@firmani.com

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