Thursday, 02 December 2010 11:28

CA Federal Judge Makes Final Decision in Toyota Class Action Lawsuit Dismissal Request

The federal judge in Santa Ana, Calif., who is presiding over the class action lawsuits against Toyota has made a final decision regarding the automaker’s call to have the case involving claims of vehicle-value erosion due to unintended acceleration dismissed. According to a statement from plantiffs’ attorneys, U.S. District Judge James Selna decided to stick with the temporary ruling he made Nov. 19, thus denying Toyota’s request to dismiss the suit. In other words, the temporary dismissal has been made final.

“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,” stated Steve Berman, who is serves as the co-lead council for the plaintiffs in the economic-loss class action suit and is the managing partner of the Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP law firm.

“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,” he added.

Plaintiffs argued in the suit that the automaker was aware that unintended acceleration or "forward lunging" could occur in models that had an electronic throttle control system, according to Hagens Berman. The firm’s statement alleges that Toyota “refused to install a brake-override or fail-safe system in an effort to meet its profitability and production goals.”

Berman later noted: “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."

The law firm also noted in its statement that despite the plantiffs having most of their claims upheld, the automaker’s claim for revocation was upheld, as were the charges of unjust enrichment.

Plaintiffs can re-plead the former.

In response to Selna finalizing his temporary ruling, Toyota officials told Auto Remarketing on December 1:

“Importantly, this ruling does not address the merits of plaintiffs’ allegations and does not consider any evidence. At this early stage, this analysis by the court requires a basic assumption that the plaintiffs’ allegations are true, even though they are unproven,” according to the statement. “The burden is now squarely on plaintiffs’ counsel to prove their allegations, and Toyota is confident that no such proof exists.
“Nonetheless, we stand by our common sense proposition, backed by extensive case law, that only drivers who allege they have experienced unintended acceleration in their Toyota or who have incurred an actual out-of-pocket financial loss because of an alleged defect should be allowed to pursue claims against Toyota in a federal court,” Toyota continued.

“While the Court's ruling stops short of this threshold, we are pleased that the court agrees that mere ownership of a Toyota is not enough to confer standing,” the automaker added.

The company also listed other two items it found favorable, the first of which was Selna’s deciding “that those plaintiffs who 'do not allege any loss' are not eligible to pursue their lawsuit in federal court.”

The automaker added: “Finally, we are pleased that the court found that specific categories of plaintiffs' claims for express warranty based upon alleged design defect, unjust enrichment and revocation of acceptance, as currently pled, should be dismissed.”

As reported earlier, there are other unintended-acceleration suits against the automaker. In these, plaintiffs are arguing that unintended acceleration led to death or injury. Toyota requested that these claims also be tossed. Selna will hear that particular motion in December.