Toyota Recall Lawyers Appointed to Leadership Roles in Federal Litigation

U.S. District Judge James Selna, who is presiding over the federal Toyota litigation, has appointed 21 plaintiffs’ lawyers to serve in leadership roles in the multidistrict litigation (MDL). The Toyota recall lawyers will perform actions during pretrial proceedings that will benefit all plaintiffs who have filed a product liability lawsuit in federal courts throughout the United States over sudden acceleration problems with Toyota or Lexus vehicles. 

Following the recall of millions of vehicles in recent months, a growing number of Toyota class action lawsuits, Toyota accident injury lawsuits and wrongful death lawsuits have been filed in state and federal courts throughout the United States.

Last month, all federal Toyota lawsuits were consolidated and centralized before Judge Selna as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL) for pretrial proceedings in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. There are now about 228 federal lawsuits over recalled Toyota vehicles included in the MDL, and there are nearly 100 other lawsuits pending in state courts nationwide.

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The litigation comprises of two types of claims: lawsuits alleging that defective Toyota or Lexus vehicles caused a personal injury or death to plaintiffs or their loved ones, and lawsuits claiming that the vehicles lost significant value due to the massive recalls and concerns about the safety.

As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings, Judge Selna issued an order on May 14 creating two separate committees of lawyers representing the various plaintiffs. Each of the committees will have nine lawyers involved in the Toyota recall litigation, including the lead counsels.

The lead Toyota recall attorneys for the economic loss committee will be Steve Berman, Marc M. Seltzer and Frank Pitre. The lead Toyota personal injury lawyers will be Elizabeth Cabraser, and Mark P. Robinson. The lead counsels will act as spokespersons for all plaintiffs at pretrial hearings and in response to inquiries from the court. They will also submit and argue motions before the court, examine witnesses at hearings and negotiate stipulations and potential Toyota settlement agreements with the defendants, which would apply to all cases.

Judge Selna has also appointed Wylie Aitken, Dawn Barrios and Gretchen M. Nelson to serve as Liaison Counsel. As Liaison Counsel, they will receive and distribute orders from the Court and documents from opposing counsel, and assist in the coordination of activities between both parties.

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.

In addition to the lawsuits, the U.S. Department of Transportation fined the company $16.4 million, accusing the Japanese automaker of covering up the problem for months; an accusation supported by what the government says are internal documents showing the company knew about the problems but waited before alerting the government and consumers.

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