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More than 100 lawyers squeezed into a courtroom on Thursday in Boise, Idaho, to argue before a panel of seven judges about which U.S. courthouse should host the massive litigation over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Meanwhile, lawyers pressing claims against Toyota Motor Corp. over its recall of Prius hybrids asked the panel to put those cases in Santa Ana, Calif. Eighteen plaintiffs lawyers suggested that the BP cases be tried in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina or Texas. Lawyers for all four defendants argued for the Southern District of Texas in Houston. So did a Justice Department lawyer representing the U.S. government, which could end up being a defendant in the civil cases. The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation appeared receptive to appointing more than one judge. And the panel’s chairman, U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II of the Western District of Kentucky, asked several times how the cases, which include personal injury and environmental claims, could be effectively divided into separate proceedings. “The magnitude of this case may be such that it may dictate several judges working in tandem together,” W. Mark Lanier of the Lanier Law Firm in Houston, told the panel. Lawyers expected the panel to decide how to handle the cases before the end of August. The MDL Panel heard brief arguments from lawyers handling about a dozen federal class actions against Toyota over its recall of 150,000 2010 Prius and Lexus HS 250h models because of defective anti-lock braking systems. Soon after Toyota announced the recalls, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched an investigation into the defect. The cases are separate from an MDL over sudden, uncontrolled acceleration in Toyotas. U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney of the Central District of California some of the hybrid cases. Plaintiffs’ attorneys argued that he should also get the rest.

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