Toyota has been subject to hundreds of lawsuits due to design flaws in some of its vehicles. Namely, plaintiffs have alleged that Toyota vehicles experienced sudden and unintended acceleration that resulted in injuries, damages, and sometimes even death. As we discussed, the lawsuits allege that Toyota knew about the sudden acceleration problem and went to great lengths to not only fail to report the problems, but to actually hide the defect.
The lawsuits claim that Toyota is responsible for product liability claims due to the sudden acceleration and/or defects with the electronic throttle control system, as well as fraud, negligence, breach of warranty, and wrongful death. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has indicated that it estimates that Toyota vehicles have been involved in approximately 90 deaths since 2000 due to traffic accidents caused by sudden and unintended acceleration.
Toyota has recalled more than 8 million vehicles, despite the fact that it claims that its vehicles are safe and that the accidents were caused by driver errors and other factors unrelated to the vehicles.
Toyota sought to have the claims resolved through arbitration, rather than in a court of law before a judge or jury – a request that was recently denied by the federal judge presiding over many of the lawsuits. U.S. District Judge James Selna said in a tentative ruling issued on February 24, 2012 that Toyota had waived its right to force arbitration for 15 of the 20 plaintiffs and that the remainder of the plaintiffs were not parties to arbitration agreements with Toyota.
According to this article, Judge Selna stated: “By failing to assert a right to compel arbitration until now, Toyota has encouraged plaintiffs to pursue their current litigation strategy, including pursuing their claims on a class- wide basis in a federal forum.” He went on to stated that the plaintiffs “would be prejudiced if their claims were required to be submitted to arbitration now.”
Judge Selna has been presiding over the Toyota consolidated litigation since 2010, and he has scheduled three trials for next year that will serve as bellwether cases. Bellwether cases are the initial cases during which the court and lawyers test evidence and legal theories before additional trials get underway. The consolidated litigation has not yet received class action status, but a decision on class action status is expected to follow the conclusion of the three bellwether trials.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident involving one of Toyota’s vehicles, you should contact an experienced product liability attorney like those at Ankin Law Offices, LLC.