Consumer Fraud

Judge allows Toyota economic-loss lawsuits to move forward

A California judge presiding over multidistrict legislation on Toyota sudden acceleration claims has issued a 108-page order that allows plaintiffs with economic-loss claims to proceed with their lawsuits against the auto manufacturer.

The plaintiffs seek damages for the diminished market value of their cars, claiming a number of violations of federal and state law. Toyota’s legal team argued that a ruling favorable to the plaintiffs would open a floodgate of lawsuits by encouraging other Toyota owners to seek money from the car maker simply because they own a Toyota vehicle.

Toyota’s argument, however, seems to gloss over the fact that many consumers buy vehicles based on the long-term value of the car. A vehicle’s future worth is a very serious and multi-faceted consideration for many families. But Toyota didn’t acknowledge that the long-term value of their cars has been greatly reduced by sudden unintended acceleration issues and other safety problems.

Critics of the automaker, including some past and present employees, say that Toyota’s problems began when the company prioritized profits over the quality of its vehicles and the safety of its customers. Corners were cut, quality slipped, and the numerous recalls Toyota announced crystallized the public’s perception that Toyota vehicles are cheaply made and unsafe.

Toyota asserted that the plaintiffs lacked the standing to sue because they had no “injury in fact,” generally meaning the party suing personally must have suffered an actual or threatened injury.

However, U.S. District Judge James V. Selna of the Central District of California ruled that personally experiencing a sudden unintended acceleration (SUA) incident is not required.

“If a defect causes SUA to manifest itself in a small percentage of Toyota vehicles, it makes sense that people would be less willing to buy or use those vehicles on the off-chance that they might experience the SUA defect,” the judge said.