Lawyers on both sides of multidistrict litigation (MDL) over deaths and injuries caused by unintended acceleration in Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles told a California federal judge on March 16 that the settlement process continues to move along. It was reported that settlements were reached in 289 cases, up from 228 in October. The Plaintiffs and Defendants told Judge James V. Selna that they have resolved 132 of 171 cases in the multidistrict litigation, and 45 of the 84 cases in coordinated state proceedings. Outside of the MDL and state proceedings, the parties have resolved 112 cases, according to the status report. The parties wrote in a joint status report filed with the court:
The [Intensive Settlement Process] is continuing to make good progress as the parties attempt to resolve the various personal injury, wrongful death and/or property damage cases pending before this court and in other courts.
It was reported that there are only 39 cases left pending in the MDL and, of those, only four did not request the expedited settlement process. There are also 39 cases in state courts and, of those, only two have not yet requested the process. The update comes about five months after a previous update in which Toyota said it had resolved more than half of the individual lawsuits in the MDL and state proceedings. In December 2013, the automaker entered into settlement negotiations with hundreds of consumers bringing personal injury, wrongful death and property damage claims related to the alleged unintended acceleration defect in the automaker’s vehicles. The total value of the wrongful death and personal injury settlements won’t be clear until all of the cases are resolved, as each settlement is being negotiated individually.
Toyota issued recalls of millions of cars and trucks in 2009 and 2010 after reports that several vehicles experienced unintended acceleration. The parties reached out to more than 300 Plaintiffs’ lawyers with information on the proposed settlement process. Courts in the multidistrict litigation and coordinated proceedings approved the formal start of the process in January 2014. Judge Selna issued a stay for all of the cases involved in the intensive settlement process, forcing them to seek certification from the special master that they complied with the requirements of the process before returning to the trial court. It should be noted that all of this came about after the verdict and subsequent settlement in the Bookout case handled by our firm in Oklahoma City. Without any doubt, that case was what brought Toyota to the table, resulting in hundreds of cases being settled and our clients prevailed in a case in which Toyota had no settlement offers.
In another arm of the litigation, Toyota agreed to pay an estimated $1.1 billion to settle claims that the alleged acceleration defect diminished the vehicles’ value. The economic loss settlement, which included a proposed class of roughly 23 million customers, won final approval in July 2013. That settlement calls for $757 million in cash as well as $875 million in “nonmonetary benefits,” including getting brake override installation in cars that merit it.
The settlment also calls for Toyota to install a brake-override system in certain recalled vehicles. A spokeswoman for Toyota told Law360 they were pleased with the progress of the settlements so far. The Plaintiffs are represented by Elizabeth Cabraser and Todd Walburg of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP, Mark Robinson Jr. and Don Slavik of Robinson Calcagnie Robinson Shapiro Davis Inc., and Dee Miles from our firm. Toyota is represented by John Hooper of Reed Smith LLP. The case is in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
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