Toyota Injury Settlement Negotiations Intensify, as Trial Date Postponed

Toyota is reportedly ready to reach some kind of settlement with plaintiffs who have sued the company for personal injury or wrongful death stemming from accidents caused by the sudden, uncontrollable acceleration of vehicles.  

While the first federal trials were expected to begin in March, U.S. District Judge James V. Selna announced a hold on all Toyota sudden acceleration lawsuits after lawyers from both sides announced they would like to intensify negotiations with the goal of reaching a settlement agreement to resolve the litigation.

Judge Selna indicated that if a settlement is reached, those plaintiffs who do not participate would be set for a formal mediation.

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Problems with Toyota vehicles accelerating out of control resulted in millions of Toyota and Lexus cars being recalled in 2009 and 2010. The company has maintained that the acceleration problem, which sparked hundreds of Toyota lawsuits, were caused by overly thick floor mats, but many plaintiffs say the problems were electrical in nature. A number of auto accidents were blamed on the problem, including some that resulted in fatalities.

Toyota has been fined millions by federal safety regulators who determined the company knew about the acceleration problems long before they issued the recalls.

All federal lawsuits over the Toyota recalls have been centralized and consolidated before Judge Selna for coordinated pretrial proceedings in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL). In addition, a number of other cases are pending in various state court systems.

The Toyota settlement negotiations come two months after an Oklahoma state court jury issued an award of $3 million to the families of two women killed in a Toyota auto accident in 2007. Before the jury had a chance to hand down a verdict on potential punitive damages, which could have significantly increased the final award, Toyota settled with the plaintiffs.

Some wrongful death lawsuits filed against Toyota have already settled, and the auto maker previously announced that it was setting aside $1.1 billion to resolve claims by Toyota customers that the resale value of their Toyota vehicles were damaged by reports of sudden acceleration problems and the recalls. However, that amount did not address personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits filed against the company.

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