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A federal judge issued tentative orders Wednesday mainly rejecting Toyota Motor Corp.’s motions to dismiss lawsuits alleging that defects in vehicles caused them to suddenly accelerate, resulting in injuries and death. “While some facts surrounding sudden uncontrolled acceleration] events were known to [the National Highway Safety Commission] and/or the public early on, and others came to light more recently, Plaintiffs allege that Toyota had exclusive knowledge of the sheer magnitude and ongoing nature of the defect, as well as potential ways of identifying and correcting the defect,” he wrote. “Taking Plaintiffs’ allegations as true, Toyota had a duty to disclose the concealed facts because it had exclusive knowledge of those facts.” The tentative orders granted dismissal on some grounds, including claims of fraudulent concealment and those citing a manufacturing defect, as opposed to a design defect. Earlier Wednesday, a lead attorney for Toyota Motor Corp. said that plaintiffs who have filed dozens of personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits against the automaker will have a difficult time proving scientifically that an electronic defect in the vehicles caused accidents tied to sudden acceleration. “Science is not an inconvenience,” said Joel Smith, a partner at Bowman and Brooke who represents Toyota in personal injury and wrongful death cases. Smith spoke to news reporters during a webcast. “It is a mandatory requirement that the plaintiffs will have to prove in this litigation. The state of science and the state of the law at this point do not support a claim of a defect of our electronic control throttle system.” His remarks came one day before Toyota’s lawyers were scheduled to appear during a court hearing addressing motions to dismiss more than half of the personal injury and wrongful death cases now pending in multidistrict litigation before U.S. District Judge James Selna in Santa Ana, Calif. About 100 lawsuits alleging personal injury and wrongful death claims have been filed in the MDL, which includes more than 200 additional class actions asserting claims for economic damages on behalf of consumers and businesses. The webcast was Toyota’s second attempt to make its case before the public on the eve of a court hearing. The company made a similar webcast just before Selna issued a temporary order on Nov. 19 refusing to dismiss the economic damage claims. Mark Robinson, senior partner at Newport Beach, Calif.-based Robinson, Calcagnie & Robinson and co-liaison counsel for the plaintiffs’ steering committee in the personal injury and wrongful death cases, raised questions about Toyota’s repeated webcasts. “This is two times in a row when Judge Selna issued tentatives in plaintiffs’ favor that Toyota’s lawyer does some kind of webcast,” he said. “I guess my question is: Is Toyota trying to draw attention away from losing the tentative rulings?” Among the cases facing dismissal on Thursday is one involving a woman in Pennsylvania who was injured after her 2004 Lexus suddenly accelerated out of control, hit an embankment and overturned. Another involves a woman in Oregon whose 2006 Camry accelerated out of control, veered into a ditch and launched 20 feet into the air before hitting a residential driveway. “Plaintiffs will have the burden of coming forward and establishing some scientifically reliable basis,” Smith said during the webcast. “I look forward to the time when those technical issues will be foremost in the minds of the court and foremost in the minds of its customers.” In addition to Toyota, CTS Corp., which manufactures some of the accelerator pedal assembles for Toyota in North America, has sought to dismiss eight cases filed against it. Hertz Corp. is seeking dismissal of a negligence case brought in Illinois by a man who crashed when his rented Corolla’s gas pedal got stuck. Amanda Bronstad can be contacted at [email protected].

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