Effort to Fine Toyota $16.4M Could Speed Up Plaintiffs' Discovery in Acceleration Cases

A record fine of $16.4 million that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is seeking to impose on Toyota Motor Corp. will probably help the plaintiffs in hundreds of lawsuits filed against the company over alleged sudden acceleration issues and other vehicle concerns, even though the fine isn’t expected to be admitted into evidence in the cases.

Regardless, the finding by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on which the fine is based—that the auto company “knowingly hid a dangerous defect”—is likely to resonate with judges, according to Bloomberg.

“It’s something that plaintiffs’ lawyers can capitalize on in settlement negotiations or in asking judges for broader discovery,” says law professor Carl Tobias of the University of Richmond. When seeking company documents, for instance, “they could point to the government’s finding,” he tells the news agency.

At last count, there were 177 lawsuits against Toyota seeking class-action status and 56 individual sudden-acceleration suits.

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Feds Launch Toyota Criminal Probe as SEC Scrutinizes Investor Disclosures”

ABAJournal.com: “Plaintiff Lawyers Vie for Coveted Lead Counsel Role in Toyota Litigation”

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