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Lawsuits against Toyota to go forward

Judge tentatively rejects automaker's challenge of suits

Bill Callahan and Margaret Cronin Fisk / Bloomberg News

A federal judge tentatively ruled that he will reject most of Toyota Motor Corp.'s first major legal challenge to class-action lawsuits filed against the automaker by car owners over sudden acceleration.

Car owners' lawyers provided sufficient evidence to allow their cases to go forward, U.S. District Judge James V. Selna in Santa Ana, Calif., said in a tentative ruling posted on his court's website. Selna heard arguments Friday over Toyota's motion to dismiss class-action, or group, lawsuits claiming economic loss linked to sudden acceleration.

"It is true that plaintiffs do not generally allege the precise dollar value of their losses, but that level of specificity is not required at this pleading stage," Selna wrote in his 63-page ruling. "It is enough that they allege a tangible loss that can be proved or disproved upon discovery."

Selna said he would issue a final ruling by the Thanksgiving holiday on Nov. 25.

The economic-loss lawsuits, combined for pretrial filings and rulings before Selna, claim Toyota drove down the value of vehicles by failing to fix or disclose defects that triggered unintended acceleration.

Federal suits claiming death or injury caused by such episodes are also combined in the Santa Ana court.

The company, based in Toyota City, Japan, has recalled more than 8 million vehicles for repairs related to sudden, unintended acceleration. In September 2009, the automaker announced a recall of 3.8 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles because of a defect that may cause floor mats to jam accelerator pedals. The company later recalled vehicles over defects involving the pedals themselves.

Toyota disputed the claims of economic loss at Friday's hearing. The vehicles have "produced as promised," Cari Dawson, a Toyota lawyer, told Selna.

"These cars have not malfunctioned, their owners have not had to pay any money for repairs or retrofit, and they have not suffered any loss," she said.

Dawson argued that economic loss can't be "speculative" based on losses that the owners may never suffer if they don't sell their cars or if market conditions change and the values of Toyotas don't drop.

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20101120/AUTO01/11200331/Lawsuits-against-Toyota-to-go-forward#ixzz161UxBqTy

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AP: Judge won't dismiss Toyota unintended acceleration lawsuits

by Zach Bowman (RSS feed) on Nov 22nd 2010 at 3:59PM

Last week, U.S. District Judge James Selna announced that he would not dismiss a bevy of lawsuits against Toyota that claim the company's rash of unintended acceleration complaints have caused vehicle values to fall. The company's attorneys had attempted to argue that around 24 of the suits should be thrown out on the basis that the plaintiffs hadn't suffered any financial loss and that owners hadn't spent money in an effort to fix whatever ailment befell their vehicle. Meanwhile, lawyers on the other side of the aisle argue contend that owners who didn't suffer through an unintended acceleration event still have a case against the Japanese automaker.

Selna seemed to side with the plaintiffs, though the judge is slated to come to a final decision later this week.

Toyota is worried that if the cases are allowed to proceed, a flood of new litigation will wash in from anyone with a Toyota in the driveway.



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