SAN DIEGO -- At first, the 150 lawyers who gathered here last week to talk about how to sue the pants off Toyota quietly listened to a lecture on legal strategy. The topic: "Preserving and Deciphering the Toyota Litigation Evidence -- Black Box Software/Hardware Issues."
But a fairly tedious seminar quickly heated up as one hot-shot attorney after another vowed to take down Toyota in cases involving unintended acceleration. By the end, the daylong event to discuss litigation tactics wasn't so much a symposium as a pep rally.
"We need to wage a multifront war so we can conquer one of the largest companies in the history of civilization," said Houston lawyer Mark Lanier, a fiery speaker with a degree in biblical languages who is perennially named one of the top trial lawyers in the country.
"This war will be waged not just by us but by Toyota as well," Lanier shouted. "We need a well-financed team; this will not come cheap. But we can do it if we do it right."
So far, about 80 suits stemming from alleged sudden-acceleration incidents have been filed against Toyota. Lawyers speculate that thousands of cases could be filed.
A day after the seminar, on March 25, lawyers asked the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation here to consolidate all the proposed class-action cases that have or will be filed in federal court. The panel is expected to decide on that motion and determine where the cases will be heard sometime next month.
There were sightings of Toyota lawyers at the conference site, the Westin San Diego, which is not far from where a California state trooper and three family members died in the crash of a speeding Lexus last summer. But Toyota Motor Corp. spokeswoman Celeste Migliore said the company would have no comment on the events of the day.
"I'm glad to see Toyota lawyers and Japanese TV here," said lawyer Stan Chesley of Cincinnati. "I hope they go back and let them know we're not backing down."