Complex Toyota Case Could Rival Tobacco Litigation, Plaintiffs Lawyers Predict
Posted Feb 12, 2010 2:53 PM CDT
By Martha Neil
Plaintiffs lawyers are predicting that what has the potential to be the largest-ever automotive products liability case will result in a complex federal action equivalent to tobacco litigation.
It may not be easy to prove the diminished-value claims being asserted in perhaps 30 of the more than 40 would-be class actions filed against Toyota Motor Corp. in connection with sudden-acceleration issues in the company's late-model vehicles. But a fairly conservative estimate of damages per vehicle is $350, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Multiply $350 by the 6 million Toyota vehicles recalled, and that adds up to $2 billion. With potential punitive damages, if the plaintiffs can prove that Toyota concealed known defects, that tab could double.
Law professor P. Tim Howard of Northeastern University is at the helm of a 16-state team of 22 law firms pursuing class-action litigation over the alleged diminished value of Toyotas that may otherwise be undamaged. He predicts that the case could, as the Times puts it, "rival tobacco litigation in its complexity."
It may not be only Toyota that feels the pain of damages awards down the road, however, says professor Marshall Shapo of Northwestern University School of Law.
If owners are aware that their cars may be defective and don't promptly repair them, they could be required to pay a portion of the damages to anyone injured as a result, he tells the newspaper.
The automaker declines to comment on the specifics of ongoing litigation, as a standard policy, the article notes.
ABAJournal.com: "Plaintiffs Lawyers from Over 20 Firms Ask Federal Court to Consolidate Toyota Case"
ABAJournal.com: "Toyota Answers 1st of 41 Class Actions, Says Case Should Be Dismissed"
Agence France-Presse: "Toyota mulls new override after recalls"
Associated Press: "Toyota to expand disclosure as pressure mounts for CEO to testify in U.S."
Christian Science Monitor: "Toyota recall: Three questions left unanswered"
Fox News: "U.S. Officials Cite Jobs in Defending Toyota Against Onslaught"