SAN DIEGO (Bloomberg) -- Toyota Motor Corp. won a judicial ruling granting access to insurance and financial data about plaintiffs suing the automaker over economic losses they claim to have suffered from sudden acceleration defects.
Two private judges in Orange, Calif., at a hearing today rejected a request by lawyers for about 81 plaintiffs who owned or leased Toyota vehicles to prevent the automaker from gathering information from banks, other lending institutions and insurance companies about the plaintiffs.
"We don't find anything wrong with the subpoenas," said John K. Trotter, one of the private judges assisting U.S. District Judge James Selna, of Santa Ana, Calif., in resolving disputes between Toyota and hundreds of plaintiffs who have filed federal lawsuits over sudden acceleration.
Those cases from across the nation and others filed by plaintiffs in other countries have been coordinated before Selna and also include claims alleging wrongful death and personal injury from sudden acceleration incidents.
Trotter said that most of the information already has been gathered by Toyota and that the privacy concerns are covered by a protective order by Selna that keeps certain information confidential.
Todd B. Benoff, an attorney for Toyota, told the judges the plaintiffs waited too long to file their request to quash the subpoenas and that Toyota needs the data in order to defend itself in a series of trials that are scheduled to begin early in 2013.
'We are entitled'
"These plaintiffs say their case is all about the value of their cars, therefore we are entitled to information about the value of their cars," Benoff said. Plaintiffs' lawyers argued that the material gathered by Toyota from subpoenas on the institutions is "highly personal and irrelevant financial information," according to court filings.
They said they are concerned that data such as social security information, family finances and health-related data would be revealed in the litigation. Trotter said he and Judge Steven Stone would state their ruling in a written order to be filed later.
"Third-party discovery is essential to Toyota's ability to develop necessary evidence to defend itself and assess the validity of plaintiffs' counsel's claims," Celeste Migliore, a Toyota spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement. "So we are pleased with today's tentative ruling."