Toyota Motor Corp. has moved to dismiss hundreds of lawsuits seeking damages associated with its recalls related to sudden unintended acceleration.
Toyota filed the motions in response to the first consolidated complaints filed as part of the multidistrict litigation (MDL) against the automaker. More than 300 lawsuits seek economic damages for consumers and businesses plus damages for individuals who were injured or died in accidents attributed to sudden acceleration. The cases have been coordinated before U.S. District Judge James Selna in Santa Ana, Calif.
On Aug. 2, the plaintiffs' steering committee overseeing the economic damages claims against Toyota filed two actions: An economic loss master consolidated complaint and a first amended consolidated complaint. Both seek to represent a nationwide class of consumers and allege claims under California law, including the Consumer Legal Remedies Act, the California Unfair Competition Law and the California False Advertising Law.
On Tuesday, Toyota moved to dismiss the master consolidated complaint as "replete with hyperbole, misleading statistics, anecdotes, and legal conclusions." The pleading by Toyota's lawyers, Cari Dawson and Lisa Gilford, both partners at Atlanta's Alston & Bird, continued: "Yet they seek for themselves and on behalf of a putative nationwide class, economic damages and injunctive relief based not upon reliable, verifiable empirical evidence and valid scientific analysis, but upon a rush to judgment fueled by incomplete and inaccurate information and analysis."
For instance, the complaint fails to identify a "common defect" in the electronic throttle control system of the vehicles at issue, they wrote. And Toyota has already addressed unintended acceleration by recalling vehicles with defective floor mats and "sticky" accelerator pedals.
The motion said that 26 of the named plaintiffs in the master consolidated complaint -- about half -- did not experience unintended acceleration. Without injuries, the plaintiffs lack standing to pursue a claim, Toyota's lawyers wrote.
Toyota's lawyers also argued that the plaintiffs' steering committee cannot bring claims on behalf of a nationwide class under California law and that the plaintiffs did not identify a specific misrepresentation in marketing materials upon which they relied when purchasing the vehicles.
Also on Tuesday, Toyota moved to dismiss about 50 personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits being handled by a separate plaintiffs' steering committee in the MDL.
In that motion, Toyota's lawyers at Bowman and Brooke, partners Vincent Galvin Jr. and Joel Smith, said the plaintiffs have failed to state a claim.
"Each plaintiff contends that the subject accident was the result of a sudden, unintended acceleration event," wrote Toyota's lawyers. "However, plaintiffs do not and cannot attribute these sudden, unintended acceleration events to a particular defect in the vehicle."
Many of the claims brought by plaintiffs seeking damages for injuries or deaths include negligence, strict product liability, breach of express and implied warranties, fraudulent concealment and misrepresentation.
Under heightened pleading standards outlined in the U.S. Supreme Court's decisions in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, such claims aren't plausible, Toyota's lawyers contend. In Twombly, the court in 2007 required plaintiffs to show that their claims were plausible, not just possible. And last year, the court in Iqbal required plaintiffs to present more conclusory facts in their pleadings.
"Plaintiffs must do more than speculate that a wrong has been committed and demand relief," they wrote. "The pleadings here are rife with vague and unspecified allegations that Toyota failed to disclose the fact that the subject vehicles contained an unidentified defect."
They also claim that Toyota owes no fiduciary duty to the plaintiffs, who purchased their vehicles from independent dealerships, and that the plaintiffs have failed to pinpoint the advertising claims on which they relied.
Separately, CTS Corp., which manufactured parts for some of Toyota's accelerator pedals, moved to dismiss eight personal injury and wrongful death cases in which it is named as a defendant. CTS, represented by Galvin and Smith, said that it never made the pedals for the vehicles identified in those cases.
A hearing on the motions is scheduled for Nov. 19.