Posted Jan 29, 2010 01:18 pm CST
Toyota’s sudden-acceleration headaches are a boon to trial lawyers.
Plaintiffs lawyers are eyeing injury claims on behalf of drivers who claim their cars careened out of control and crashed, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) reports. Class action lawyers are already filing economic loss claims on behalf of vehicle owners who say their cars are worth less.
On Tuesday, Toyota stopped the sale of car eight models in the United States and Canada as it investigates claims of problems. A Washington Post article says Toyota has faced complaints of runaway cars as far back as 2004, but opted not to install brake override systems that stop the car even when the accelerator is pressed. Several other automakers use the technology.
San Diego lawyer Tim Pestotnik told the Wall Street Journal that he is suing Toyota for the deaths of police officer Mark Saylor and three family members who were killed when their Lexus allegedly accelerated and crashed. “The brakes didn’t work,” he told the newspaper.
California attorney Michael Louis Kelly said he has already filed two suits seeking class action status for concerned consumers.
Class action lawyers, however, face an obstacle. Judges may not approve nationwide class actions because of differing consumer laws. University of Virginia law professor Richard Nagareda pointed out the problem in a Wall Street Journal interview.
“Since it will be hard to represent a nationwide class,” he said, “I don’t think this litigation will be a big moneymaker for plaintiffs.”
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