SAN DIEGO (Bloomberg) -- The federal judge overseeing lawsuits against Toyota Motor Corp. involving allegations of unintended acceleration made final an order rejecting the automaker’s bid to throw out claims by vehicle owners claiming economic loss.
The Toyota owners contend the company drove down the value of their vehicles by failing to disclose or fix defects related to unintended acceleration. U.S. District Judge James V. Selna in Santa Ana, Calif., declined on May 13 to revisit last month’s tentative order allowing the lawsuits to move ahead because the vehicle owners had properly pleaded loss or injury.
“Taking these allegations as true, as the court must at the pleading stage, they establish an economic loss,” Selna wrote, using language identical to his tentative ruling. “A vehicle with a defect is worth less than one without a defect.”
Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, recalled millions of U.S. vehicles, starting in 2009, after claims of defects and incidents involving unintended acceleration. The recalls set off a wave of litigation, including hundreds of economic loss suits and claims by individuals or their families alleging injuries and deaths.
Most of the federal lawsuits were combined before Selna, who is overseeing pretrial evidence-gathering.
Selna issued a similar ruling in November that rejected Toyota’s motion to dismiss an earlier complaint by the vehicle owners.
Selna is conducting a hearing today on a request by lawyers for vehicle owners to use California law, which gives plaintiffs a better chance than most states of recovering damages, to pursue economic claims.
Toyota has asked the judge to find that car owners can’t use California law on suits brought in other states.
Selna said last week that he was likely to rule in the vehicle owners’ favor. Selna said he didn’t believe Toyota’s rights to due process would be denied through using California consumer law on the claims.