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Toyota Motor Corp. has moved to dismiss the lead complaint brought on behalf of a class of consumers, arguing that most of the vehicles at issue have not experienced the sudden acceleration problems similar to those that caused a massive product recall. Separately, U.S. District Judge James Selna, who is overseeing the multidistrict litigation against Toyota over the alleged sudden acceleration defects, issued a final order dismissing claims by foreign consumers. The multidistrict litigation consists of 300 consolidated actions in Santa Ana, Calif. Of those, about 200 involve consumer claims for economic damages and 100 address injuries and deaths allegedly caused by sudden acceleration. The first consolidated consumer action, filed on behalf of a proposed nationwide class, fell apart after Selna ruled on June 8 that consumers who lived in states other than California could not pursue economic damages claims under California state law. On Sept. 20, the plaintiffs’ steering committee filed an amended class action limiting the case to consumers in California, New York and Florida. Toyota’s motion, filed on Nov. 30, addresses that case. Toyota argued that nine of the 14 plaintiffs in New York and Florida have failed to state a claim because they have not an alleged a product defect. As for the California plaintiffs, Toyota moved to dismiss six plaintiffs who experienced no defect, citing an Oct. 18 ruling by California’s 2d District Court of Appeal in American Honda Motor Co. v. Superior Court. That court found that to bring a claim, a consumer must have experienced a defect or be “substantially certain” that a defect could occur. “American Honda made clear that California requires allegations of a malfunction or a substantial certainty of malfunction to state a claim for breach of express or implied warranty,” Toyota’s motion said. Toyota also moved to dismiss the economic claims as well as breach-of-express-warranty claims under the New York Consumer Protection Act and Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, alleging that the plaintiffs had failed to identify specific advertisements upon which they relied. Steve Berman, managing partner of Seattle’s Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, co-lead counsel of the economic damages claims, did not respond to a request for comment. A hearing on the motion was scheduled on March 15. Also on Nov. 30, Selna issued a final order dismissing the economic damages claims of consumers in 14 countries. He had dismissed an initial consolidated foreign plaintiff case on April 8, but allowed the consumers to amend their complaint, which was filed separately from the class action case. He had tentatively dismissed the complaint on Nov. 21. In his final order, he wrote that the plaintiffs had failed to link the acts of Toyota’s U.S. divisions to the advertising and marketing that foreign consumers relied upon. The decision prevents foreign consumers who purchased or leased their vehicles outside the United States from pursuing their claims in U.S. courts. “We are pleased that Judge Selna has now twice ruled in Toyota’s favor on this important issue,” said Lisa Gilford, an attorney for Toyota, in a prepared statement. “Although Toyota’s U.S. entities were named as defendants, they have little connection to plaintiffs’ foreign claims, as the vast majority of the Toyota models in question are neither manufactured, designed, nor sold in the U.S.” Monica Kelly, a partner at Ribbeck Law in Chicago, lead counsel for the foreign plaintiffs, did not respond to a request for comment on whether she plans to appeal the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. Contact Amanda Bronstad at [email protected].

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