Toyota Motor Corp has agreed to a $1.1 billion charge to settle hundreds of U.S. consumer claims related to Sudden Unintended Acceleration (SUA) in its vehicles. The settlement, which is pending approval by U.S. District Judge James Selna, who is overseeing the multidistrict consolidated litigation, would resolve claims of economic loss related to the defective vehicles. Dee Miles, head of our firm’s Consumer Fraud Section, served on the Plaintiffs Liaison counsel for this litigation. It should be noted that the settlement does not cover claims of wrongful death and injury in litigation against Toyota SUA. Those cases are slated for trial in February 2013.
This class settlement provides a very practical resolution for those Toyota car owners who experienced economic losses as a result of the Sudden Unintended Acceleration issue with their vehicles. It compensates them for their financial losses. For those who have experienced serious personal injuries and families who are suffering the loss of a loved one as a result of the Sudden Unintended Acceleration issue, their day in court still awaits them and is fast approaching. The MDL trial court has done a tremendous job of moving these cases through the system and adequately protecting the interests of all concerned. MDL Judge James Selna’s highly-skillful management of these cases is the reason the parties were able to announce this very good resolution of the economic loss portion of the case.
The settlement agreement would establish a reserve of about $250 million for cash payments to Toyota customers who sold certain vehicles or turned in certain leased vehicles between September 2009 and December 2010. The agreement also would require Toyota to establish a $250 million program for current Toyota vehicle owners to provide a supplemental warranty and retrofit about 3.2 million vehicles with a brake override system. More information, including a copy of the proposed settlement agreement, is available on the Toyota Settlement website at www.toyotaelsettlement.com. It should be noted that the settlement must receive court approval to become final. We believe that Judge Selna will approve it after conducting a fairness hearing.
Since 2009, Toyota has recalled 14 million vehicles worldwide for Sudden Unintended Acceleration problems, paid record fines for violating recall procedures required under U.S. safety regulations, and became the subject of a Congressional investigation. Toyota has blamed the problems on faulty floor mats and stuck accelerator pedals. Many safety experts and Plaintiffs’ lawyers, however, blame Toyota’s sudden-acceleration incidents on a highly obscure electronic malfunction – a claim that Toyota disputes. Elizabeth Cabraser, Mark Robinson, Steve Berman, Marc Seltzer, and Frank Petrie, along with Dee Miles from our firm, have all worked hard on this case and did a very good job in bringing about the settlement. Other members of the steering committee for the Toyota litigation include Mike Eidson, Richard D. McCune, Hunter Shkolnik, Donald H. Slavik, Richard J. Arsenault, Jane Conroy, Benjamin L. Bailey, Michael Louis Kelly and W.B. Markovits. Each of these lawyers has done a very good job in helping bring about this settlement.
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