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Toyota First Trial Scheduled in California Acceleration Case

The first Toyota Motor Corp. (7203) sudden- unintended acceleration trial in California, involving the death of a woman whose 2006 Toyota Camry hit a telephone pole, will get under way in November in Los Angeles.

California Superior Court Judge Anthony Mohr, who oversees the coordinated state court cases in Los Angeles, said in an order yesterday that jury time-qualification will begin between Nov. 1 and Nov. 30 and that the trial will begin after Jan. 1, with the specific date to be determined.

The so-called bellwether trial involved the claims by the family of Noriko Uno, who died in 2009 when, they allege, her Camry unintentionally accelerated and struck a telephone pole. Lawyers for the plaintiffs estimate that the trial will take about 40 days, according to the judge’s order.

Simultaneously with the wrongful death case, the judge will hear evidence for the lawsuit by the Orange County District Attorney who sued Toyota in 2010, alleging the carmaker endangered the public by knowingly selling defective vehicles. Witnesses who testified in the Uno case will testify if needed in the D.A.’s case without the jury present, the judge said.

Two Cases

The judge also selected two other bellwether cases, one proposed by the plaintiffs, as was the Uno case, and one proposed by Toyota.

“Toyota looks forward to defending these cases, and we remain confident that the evidence will confirm what millions of Toyota drivers prove every day: that they can depend upon their vehicles to provide safe, reliable transportation,” Celeste Migliore, a spokeswoman for Torrance, California-based Toyota Motor Sales USA, said in a statement.

U.S. District Judge James V. Selna in Santa Ana, California, who oversees the coordinated federal lawsuits against Toyota over unintended-sudden acceleration, in October scheduled the first of three trials in his court for Feb. 19, 2013.

Toyota, the world’s second-largest automaker, recalled at least 8 million U.S. vehicles starting in 2009, after claims of defects and incidents involving sudden unintended acceleration. The recalls set off hundreds of economic-loss suits and claims of injuries and deaths.

The cases are Toyota Motor Cases, JCCP 4621, California Superior Court, Los Angeles County (Central Civil West.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Edvard Pettersson in Los Angeles at epettersson@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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