Toyota Motor Corp. has moved to dismiss a complaint in the multidistrict litigation (MDL) involving unintended acceleration defects, claiming that plaintiffs’ lawyers are “seemingly faced with an increasingly uphill battle to define any technical problem” with Toyota’s electronic throttle control system.
Toyota’s reply brief, filed on Monday, addresses new claims asserted in an amended complaint against the company in the MDL, which involves more than 200 economic class actions brought on behalf of consumers and businesses and about 100 personal injury and wrongful death claims. Toyota’s filing and the amended complaint pertain only to the economic damages claims.
In its brief, Toyota said the amended complaint continues to highlight “Plaintiffs’ continued inability to point to an actual defect in the automobiles at issue. In fact, to the extent it was possible to make their defect claim more ambiguous, Plaintiffs have done so.”
In a prepared statement, Toyota’s lawyer, Cari Dawson, a partner at Atlanta’s Alston & Bird, said plaintiffs’ lawyers are “grasping at straws.”
“Although the plaintiffs have recently filed a new complaint that attempts to remedy deficiencies in their earlier claims, this new complaint offers no more support for their positions and contains a number of inaccuracies and mischaracterizations,” she said.
The new complaint, filed on Oct. 27, amends a previous filing that alleged Toyota knowingly hid defects associated with unintended acceleration beginning in 2002 while falsely assuring consumers about the safety of its vehicles.
Steve Berman, managing partner of Seattle’s Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, co-liaison counsel of the plaintiffs’ steering committee for the economic class actions in the MDL, issued a statement on Tuesday in response to Toyota’s filing: “We believe the evidence clearly shows that Toyota recognized — and could replicate — sudden, unintended accelerations with their vehicles for nearly a decade. We also believe Toyota knew how to fix the problem using a brake-override system — standard equipment with other carmakers.”
A hearing on Toyota’s motion to dismiss is scheduled for Nov. 19.
The original complaint, filed on Aug. 2, was brought on behalf of a nationwide class but alleged violations under California law. U.S. District Judge James Selna in Santa Ana, Calif., had raised questions about how to handle suits excluded from the original complaint, particularly those in states other than California.
The new complaint lists claims under the laws of all 50 states. It also cites specific examples in which technicians found defects associated with sudden acceleration that had nothing to do with the accelerator pedal or floor mats, both of which were the subject of recent recalls.
But in Monday’s filing, Toyota continued to assert that the majority of plaintiffs cannot allege unintended acceleration problems and that, as a result, their claims should be dismissed.
Previous court rulings have repeatedly rejected damages for consumers who suffered no injuries from a defect other than the decreased value of the products, or the “benefit-of-the-bargain,” Toyota’s brief says.
“The suggestion that at some undisclosed time in the future, when these Plaintiffs might attempt to sell their vehicles, they will suffer some loss legally traceable to a defect that they have never experienced, is sheer speculation and is far too hypothetical to constitute concrete injury-in-fact sufficient to support any claim.”
Toyota also has filed several motions to dismiss cases filed on behalf of individuals who were injured or died in vehicles that suddenly accelerated. Those motions also will be heard on Nov. 19.