A federal judge dismissed a class-action lawsuit against Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. that sought compensation for damage caused by rodents chewing through insulation for engine wiring.
Filed in August 2016, the lawsuit said the insulation is soy-based rather than petroleum-based, which makes it attractive to hungry rodents. Automakers began using soy-based products several years ago in an initiative to make their products more environmentally friendly.
The suit claims the company should cover such damage under warranty.
Brian Kabateck, co-lead attorney for the plaintiffs in Los Angeles, initially filed the suit on behalf of Albert Heber of Indiana, the Detroit Free Press reported. Heber paid around $1,500 to fix the wiring in his 2012 Tundra, which was chewed through three separate times. Since Heber's suit, a number of customers have come forward with similar claims.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Guilford granted motions to dismiss the lawsuit without leave to amend. The judge also dismissed claims of fraud and consumer protections, saying the plaintiffs failed to provide "the appropriate level of specificity" with these claims.
The motion to dismiss obtained by Automotive News stated there were 21 plaintiffs in the 242-page fourth amended complaint in the lawsuit.
"Plaintiffs' complaint includes several consumer complaints from several different Toyota owners alleging rodent damage to several different parts of their vehicles. And this damage wasn't always connected to soy-based parts. Considering this considerable variance, it isn't clear that Toyota could have specifically articulated any increased 'risk' to any particular part of Plaintiffs' vehicles because of the soy coated wiring," the judge's order states.
"We are gratified that, after repeated failures to allege facts that would make their defect theory plausible, the Court dismissed plaintiffs' meritless claims without leave to amend," a Toyota spokesperson said in a statement sent to Automotive News.
Kabateck said, “We’re disappointed by the court’s ruling and are weighing our legal options in an effort to help consumers recoup their losses. Over the course of litigation, we’ve discovered the problem of rodents eating through soy-covered wiring is frequent and widespread, impacting tens of thousands of drivers nationwide. Toyota apparently isn’t willing to fix this defect or compensate customers who have paid significant amounts of money to mechanics to repair damage caused by rats, squirrels and mice."