Judge May Scrap New York, Florida Toyota Lawsuits

April 25, 2012

A federal judge in California indicated that he would dismiss most New Yorkers’ and Floridians’ claims in class-action litigation over the unintended acceleration of Toyota vehicles, saying their claims don’t fly under those states’ laws.

Hundreds of lawsuits from around the country have been consolidated and put in the hands of U.S. District Judge James Selna in Santa Ana, who issued the tentative ruling.

Most plaintiffs did not actually experience the sudden acceleration problems that led to millions of recalled vehicles, but instead are claiming that Toyota owes them for lost value because of the tainted reputation of the vehicles and the possibility of dangerous acceleration.

According to City News Service, Selna said laws in New York and Florida don’t allow for such claims, and he had already ruled that out-of-state plaintiffs cannot sue under California laws that are friendlier to their cases. The ruling would not affect any California plaintiffs.

It isn’t clear when the judge would finalize the ruling, but if he does, it would be a major victory for Toyota Motor Corp. and its efforts to dismiss the lawsuits.

“We believe the law is clear,” the automaker said in a statement. “Plaintiffs from New York and Florida who continue to operate their vehicles and do not allege to have experienced unintended acceleration or incurred an economic loss have no legally recognizable claims.”

Steve Berman, a plaintiffs’ attorney, argued that appellate courts have not been clear on the issue, and that the “unique” Toyota case could establish new precedent.

Berman said a court cannot ask that a vehicle owner have dangerous problems before filing a claim when the defects could arise at any moment.

“That would require someone to drive a ticking time bomb and wait for it to explode,” Berman told Selna.

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