Hearing Over Centralization of Toyota Gas Pedal Litigation Set for This Month
The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation has scheduled a hearing for later this month to hear arguments about whether all federal Toyota gas pedal lawsuits should be consolidated and centralized in one district for coordinated handling as part of an MDL, or Multidistrict Litigation.
The hearing is scheduled for March 25 in San Diego, and will give plaintiffs and defendants in the claims a chance to submit oral arguments for or against the centralization. If an MDL is formed, the cases will all be assigned to one judge for pretrial litigation to avoid duplicate discovery, inconsistent rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the court, the parties and witnesses.
A growing number of product liability lawsuits against Toyota have been filed in recent months after the Japanese automaker recalled millions of vehicles due to problems with uncontrolled acceleration. The Toyota gas pedal problems have been associated with dozens of accidents and a number of serious and fatal personal injury claims.
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The request that the Toyota litigation be centralized came from plaintiffs Heather A. Lane and Daniel Weimer, Jr. However the plaintiffs disagree on where the cases should be handled. Lane wants the cases consolidated in the Central District of California, which currently has the most cases under consideration by the panel. Weimer is seeking to have the cases consolidated in the Eastern District of Louisiana.
Toyota has recalled nearly 9 million vehicles since September 2009, with 8.5 million recalled due to complaints that they can accelerate out of control. The acceleration recalls were done in waves, starting with 4.2 million recalled for problems involving the floormats, and then later recalls indicated that there was a mechanical or electrical problem with the gas pedals.
The Toyota gas pedal recall has resulted in a number of individual personal injury and negligence lawsuits, class action lawsuits, and several wrongful death lawsuits filed by family members of people allegedly killed when their Toyota or Lexus vehicles accelerated out of control.
The judicial panel is currently considering a request to consolidate 11 lawsuits from federal courts in California, Florida, Louisiana, and West Virginia. However, the ruling would also impact all future lawsuits filed over the Toyota gas pedal problems.
Last month Toyota became the target of probes by both federal prosecutors and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Both federal investigators and the SEC are looking into how the company reacted to complaints about Toyota accelerator problems, and are questioning whether the company attempted to cover up or downplay the seriousness and number of incidents being reported.
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