Consumer Fraud

Economic-loss claims against Toyota will go forward, judge rules again

Toyota has motioned for a second time that all economic-loss claims filed against it in the shadow of its sudden unintended acceleration problems be thrown out, but the judge overseeing the litigation has ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, saying they have sufficient grounds to move forward.

Federal Judge James Selna of U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Santa Ana, who is presiding over all sudden-unintended acceleration (SUA) claims filed against Toyota in federal court, rejected Toyota’s motion on Friday. His dismissal will allow hundreds of economic-loss claims filed against Toyota to move forward. The plaintiffs allege that the value of their vehicles plummeted amidst Toyota’s sudden-acceleration recalls.

It was the second time Judge Selna rejected a motion by the car maker to have the lawsuits thrown out, acknowledging that plaintiffs who claim economic damages against Toyota have enough facts to proceed with their cases, which have not yet been certified as a class action. Judge Selna is expected to make a final ruling on the matter in the next 10 days.

The plaintiffs seek damages for the diminished market value of their cars, claiming Toyota violated a number of federal and state laws and churned out vehicles with defects that could potentially turn them into speeding deathtraps. Toyota argued that allowing the cases to move forward would signal other Toyota owners to seek money without “injury in fact,” simply because they owned a Toyota vehicle.

Judge Selna disagreed with the argument that claimants must have had real or threatened injury as a result of sudden unintended acceleration. In his original ruling, the judge said “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 first trials dealing with acceleration issues are slated to begin in early 2013.