Consumers Suing Toyota Over Acceleration Defects

A federal judge in Santa Ana, Calif., ruled this week that owners of Toyota vehicles that were recalled over acceleration issues can move forward with claims against the automaker, according to Reuters.

The plaintiffs claim they have lost money because Toyota failed to either disclose or fix the defects in their cars that made them accelerate without warning, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, the automaker stands by its claims that the models were not defective.

Matt Englett, partner at KEL Attorneys, said the consumers have a good case, as long as they can prove the vehicles are actually defective.

"Consumers are saying their cars are now worth a lot less than they should be," Englett said. "They're right, as long as they can prove the cars are actually defective. It's the plaintiff's burden to prove that, and I think that's where they may run into some problems."

The nature of the case is extremely technical, he said, and the plaintiffs will likely enlist an army of experts to testify on their behalf. Starting this lawsuit process in California is likely due to the state's more liberal mentality toward consumer law, he said.

"If they make money in California, they will likely invest that in litigation in other states," Englett said. "Typically in a class action suit, the first hurdle to get over is dismissal, which they cleared."

Toyota has asked the judge to rule that California law does not apply to suits brought in other states, Reuters reported.

Englett said the ruling will not have bearing in other states, if similar cases are opened there. Just because this suit has moved forward in California, does not mean that consumers looking to sue in other states will have the same luck.

"Judges in other states can look at that opinion as persuasive authority, but they aren't bound by it," he said.