Class Action Settlement
As a Modesto personal injury lawyer, this writer was all ears when he was informed that Toyota was settling a class action lawsuit for 1.1 billion dollars. The settlement may be the largest ever against an automaker according to attorneys representing some of the plaintiff’s. A U.S. judge in Santa Ana, California granted preliminary approval on December 28, 2012 to Toyota’s $1.1 billion settlement of a class-action lawsuit. The lawsuit was brought by Toyota owners who claimed they lost value on their cars due to unexpected, sudden and unintended acceleration. U.S. District Judge James Selna has scheduled a hearing in June of 2013 regarding the final approval of this settlement.
Millions Of Automobiles Covered
According to class action court papers there are over millions of Toyota brand automobiles covered by the settlement, including Toyota, Lexus and Scion vehicles sold in the United States between 1998 to 2010. Toyota has maintained in press releases previously and continue to maintain that actual gas pedal electronics are not at fault, but blame poor fitting floor mats. In addition, a study commissioned by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and NASA found no link between alleged reports of unintended acceleration and Toyota’s gas peddle electronics.
Wrongful Death and Personal Injury Cases Not Included
This settlement does not affect the over 300 wrongful death and personal injury claims stemming from allegations of sudden acceleration which caused injury or death to persons. This writer of this blog although fascinated by the billion dollar settlement by Toyota is more interested in the outcome of the 300 plus personal injury lawsuits against Toyota.
The lawsuits against Toyota were consolidated in federal court and put into one of two categories (1) economic loss from falling car value and (2) wrongful death or personal injury claims. The settlement deals only with the first category and not the wrongful death or personal injury claims. Those other claims are still moving forward through the court system.
Since Toyota is not making an admissions of wrongdoing related to this issue, these lawsuits are likely to proceed, unless Toyota settles the personal injury suits, which this writer is doubtful. Toyota will most likely want a jury to decide actual liability related to the wrongful death and personal injury portions of the lawsuits.
As readers of this blog are familiar, in the California Supreme Court case of Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, Inc. (1963) 59 Cal. 2d 57, made it easier for injured parties to recover for products that cause injury to them. Previous to this case, the plaintiff had to prove that the product was negligently produced in order to recover for damages caused by a product. This case makes manufacturer’s of products strictly liable for injuries cased by their products. Plaintiff’s who are residents of California will be arguing for the strict liability rules for products should be applied to their lawsuits against Toyota.
It’s not going to be an easy win for plaintiff’s in the personal injury lawsuits. The plaintiff’s still have the burden of proof to prove that the product is in fact defective which in turn caused the injury or death. This writer assumes there will be experts from both sides, the plaintiff and Toyota regarding the defect or lack of defect in the Toyota gas pedal. In addition, Toyota will surely argue that their product did not cause the injury at all and that it was caused by human error or other cause which the jury could find Toyota not liable.
If found liable, it could prove to be very costly for Toyota. If not found liable, the Toyota can put this issue behind them and move forward. The problem is the legal battle is far from over and the issue of liability will not be settled anytime soon.
If the gas pedal gets stuck or unexpectedly accelerates you should
- Shift the transmission to neutral
- Turn off the ignition switch
- Apply the brakes and pull over
If you, a family member or a loved one has been injured due to an defective product or car, you can contact the The Bogan Law Firm, A Professional Corporation for a confidential consultation.