Lawsuits and Bellwether Trials for Toyota Acceleration Defect

Author: Rosenberg & Gluck, LLP

After numerous reports of Toyota accelerators sticking and causing vehicles to accelerate suddenly, Toyota announced a voluntary recall of eight models including the Camry and Corolla. In 2010, Toyota recalled approximately eight million vehicles worldwide and an estimated six million within the United States.

Toyota’s concessions to appease consumers

Subsequent to the recall, people began filing lawsuits for personal injury, wrongful death, and economic losses based on car value. In response, Toyota made vehicle modifications, including a brake enhancement system causing the brake to override the accelerator in particular driving situations when both pedals were used simultaneously. Toyota also extended special services to customers with recalled cars. These actions were part of a promotional campaign to offset and restore consumer confidence in their vehicles.

Lawsuits on the docket

Yet, Toyota’s investigation revealed no identifiable defect, which Toyota lawyers are leveraging as a defense strategy in several lawsuits brought against them.

According to a Bloomberg Businessweek article,  a federal court judge scheduled three Toyota trials in 2013 to hear suits involving sudden acceleration claims. The trials consist of:

  • Two families who filed wrongful death lawsuits for two family members killed in a Utah 2010 crash from a defective accelerator and brake failure to override it
  • An economic loss class action claim based on grounds that Toyota’s failure to disclose or fix acceleration defects drove down the value of their vehicles, a claim limited to car owners in only three states.

The trial outcomes are the bellwether for later trials and will be court decisions that dictate whether a class exists for further class action lawsuits. Product liability lawyers throughout the country wait to see how these trial cases unfold.