Toyota Wins Tentative Dismissal of Some Acceleration Claims

Toyota Motor Corp. (7203) won tentative dismissal of some claims by plaintiffs who said their vehicles lost value because of the carmaker’s recalls for sudden, unintended acceleration-related issues.

U.S. District Judge James Selna in Santa Ana, California, in a tentative order today, agreed with Toyota that the New York and Florida class representatives in the consolidated lawsuits can’t bring claims under their states’ laws if they didn’t allege their cars experienced sudden, unintended acceleration.

The judge disagreed with Toyota and said New York law didn’t preclude the claims of a plaintiff who said she traded in her Prius for a reduced amount because of the alleged defect even if she didn’t claim that her car manifested the defect. Selna will make a final decision on Toyota’s request to dismiss the claims after a hearing on April 23.

“The highest court of the state New York would be likely to find actionable the claims of a plaintiff who realizes a measurable loss on the resale or trade-in of a vehicle with an unmanifested defect that may be fairly attributed to that defect,” Selna said.

The issue of whether New York and Florida law allowed claims for “unmanifested” defects is a separate question from whether plaintiffs who hadn’t had sudden, unintended acceleration problems with their vehicles had the right to sue, according to the judge’s tentative ruling.

Economic Losses

Selna last year said the Toyota owners were in a legal position to sue for alleged economic losses and allowed Toyota to challenge his decision with the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

Steve Berman, one of the lead lawyers for the plaintiffs, declined to comment on Selna’s tentative decision before next week’s hearing.

Celeste Migliore, a spokeswoman for Toyota Motor Sales USA in Torrance, California, declined to comment on the ruling

Selna presided over the consolidated litigation since 2010. He has scheduled three trials for next year that will serve as bellwether cases to be used by the court and lawyers for both sides to test evidence and liability theories before moving on to other trials and a decision by Selna as to whether to approve a class-action status for the plaintiffs.

The cases are combined as In re Toyota Motor Corp. Unintended Acceleration Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation, 8:10-ml-02151, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Santa Ana).

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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