Judge Allows Class Action Lawsuit to Proceed Against Toyota

There has been an onslaught of lawsuits against Toyota in recent years due to design flaws with some of its vehicles. Most recently, two auto product liability lawsuits were filed in August 2010 against Toyota in which the plaintiffs cited six different incidents between 2003 and 2010 involving sudden acceleration and claimed that the automaker knew that some of its vehicles were experiencing sudden unintended acceleration problems but failed to take the appropriate action.

One of the lawsuits is seeking class action status for auto owners claiming that the alleged defects have reduced the market value of their cars. Late last month, a California judge denied Toyota’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit and allowed the claims to move forward for the time being.

Judge James Selna ruled that the plaintiffs did not need to show that they had experienced a malfunction in their own cars but that it was enough to show that they suffered an economic loss when they tried to sell their vehicles due to their diminished market value. Judge Selna noted that many of the plaintiffs in this class action had sold their vehicles so that had suffered an actual and specific economic loss that was due to the possibility that the vehicles were defective.

The other lawsuit was brought by or on behalf of motorists that were injured or killed as a result of accidents caused by the vehicles’ unintended sudden acceleration.

Hundreds of product liability lawsuits have already been brought against the automaker due to its sudden acceleration problems, many of which were consolidated into two federal lawsuits in 2009. The lawsuits accuse Toyota of knowing about the sudden acceleration problem and of not only failing to report the problems, but also going to great lengths to hide the defect.

The lawsuits filed to date include allegations that Toyota is responsible for product liability claims due to sudden acceleration and/or defects with the electronic throttle control system, fraud, negligence, breach of warranty and wrongful death. Even the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said that it believes that Toyota vehicles have been involved in approximately 90 deaths since 2000 in traffic accidents linked to unintended and sudden acceleration.

Toyota claims that its vehicles were and are safe and that the accidents were caused by driver error and other factors unrelated to the vehicles themselves. Nonetheless, the automaker has issued a recall of more than 8 million of its vehicles and it recently settled a lawsuit with the relatives of a four family members killed in an accident in San Diego in which an out-of-control 2009 Lexus plunged over an embankment and burst into flames.

If you or a family member have been injured in an accident involving one of Toyota’s vehicles, you should consult with an experienced product liability attorney immediately to discuss your legal rights.

Howard Ankin of Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. Mr. Ankin can be reached at (312) 600-0000 and howard@ankinlaw.com.