Trial set for economic damages claims in Toyota class action

Posted on: October 28th, 2011 by Steve Larson

A proposed class action alleging economic losses on behalf of consumers in California and a few other states, caused by alleged sudden, unintended acceleration by Toyota vehicles, will begin in July 2013, the federal judge overseeing the multidistrict litigation said on October 11, 2011.

U.S. District Judge James Selna in Santa Ana, California, told the parties that a class action would be the second case to go to trial, following a personal injury and wrongful death action that he previously had scheduled for February 19, 2013.

In setting what he called an “ambitious” target date, Judge Selna rejected Toyota Motor Corp.’s argument that its lawyers needed time to file additional motions regarding claims originating in the other states to adequately prepare for the bellwether class action trial.  They argued that 75% of such claims had been filed outside California.

Judge Selna also rejected a suggestion by plaintiffs’ lawyers that the case — filed on behalf of consumers in California, New York and Florida — should assert claims under California state laws.  He said he was “highly unlikely” to certify a class of consumers in New York and Florida under California law.

Judge Selna said he was not averse to hearing a class action bellwether trial involving more than one state.  But he emphasized that consumers in those states must assert claims under the laws of their own states, not California’s.  California law tends to be more consumer-friendly than those of other states, many of which require plaintiffs to prove a manifestation of a defect to qualify for economic damages.

The courts use bellwether cases to decide legal and evidentiary issues for all of the related litigation and — potentially — move the parties closer to settlement.

More than 200 class actions and economic loss cases were coordinated in the multidistrict litigation against Toyota.  An additional 100 cases allege personal injury and wrongful death.