DETROIT (Bloomberg) -- Lawyers suing Japanese auto supplier Takata Corp. over customer claims of lost vehicle value connected to airbag recalls asked that they be combined in a single federal court, which would give them a united front in pursuing the cases.
At least six proposed class actions have been filed accusing Takata and automakers of withholding information about airbag flaws that caused values to plummet as recalls were announced. About 7.8 million vehicles have been recalled in the U.S. this year for Takata airbag repairs, including 6 million involving Honda Motor Co.
The economic-loss class actions should be combined in Miami, where two cases were filed, for evidence gathering and other pretrial rulings, attorneys for 16 individuals and two businesses told a judicial panel in Washington this week.
The panel manages cases filed in multiple courts in what’s called multidistrict litigation. The process streamlines development of evidence and management of claims that otherwise would be fought over case-by-case in multiple courts.
The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation will consider the request to combine the suits at a hearing in Miami on Jan. 29, plaintiffs’ attorney Lawrence Sucharow said in an interview.
MDLs are commonly used when companies are facing large numbers of lawsuits with similar claims.
Lawsuits against Toyota Motor Corp. for economic loss and personal injury or death following its recalls over unintended acceleration were combined in an MDL in federal court in Santa Ana, Calif., in 2010.
Toyota wound up settling the vehicle lost-value cases for $1.6 billion and has been resolving the death and injury cases, according to court records.
General Motors Co. is fighting claims of economic loss connected to ignition switch recalls in a multidistrict litigation in Manhattan. That MDL has been expanded beyond vehicles involved in the ignition switch vehicles, with consumers now claiming losses connected to all recent GM recalls. Federal death and injury suits have also been brought into this MDL for pretrial rulings and evidence gathering.
Using an MDL to pursue the claims creates a “uniformity of decisions,” said Sucharow, the plaintiffs’ lawyer in the Miami case. “You don’t get a judge in one district deciding one way and another deciding another way.” It also allows for “a single, coordinated plaintiffs’ effort,” he said.
“A large number of the accidents involving the Takata airbags occurred in Florida,” Sucharow and other lawyers for 16 individuals and two businesses who sued Takata Oct. 27 said in Tuesday's filing. The judge in that case has set a Dec. 8 hearing on their request for evidence about who knew the products were potentially defective.
Alby Berman, a spokesman for Takata, declined to comment.
The six lawsuits include two filed in Florida, two in California and one each in Michigan and Louisiana. All name Takata and Honda as defendants. Other defendants include Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Co. and Ford Motor Co.
The suits filed as proposed national and state class actions would represent all owners or lessors of the affected vehicles if courts granted that status to the cases.
Lawyers in the second Florida suit, filed Oct. 31, also asked Monday that the cases be combined in federal court in Miami.