A federal judge refused on Friday to dismiss the multidistrict litigation against Toyota Motor Corp. brought by car owners who claim sudden unintended acceleration caused the value of their vehicles to plummet.
U.S. District Judge James Selna in Santa Ana, Calif., issued a 63-page tentative ruling that allows the case to advance. Selna promised to issue a final ruling within a week.
Selna will consider a motion to dismiss cases alleging wrongful injury and death on Dec. 9.
Toyota maintains the plaintiffs have been unable to prove that a design defect is responsible for vehicles surging unexpectedly.
Steve Berman, managing partner of Seattle’s Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro and co-liaison counsel of the plaintiffs’ steering committee for the economic class actions in the MDL, said outside of court that people who bought Toyotas believed they were buying a safe product and those who didn’t experience unintended acceleration still have a claim.
“Our argument is you don’t have to wait for the time bomb to go off,” he said.
The company issued a written statement noting that Selna hasn’t addressed the merits of the plaintiffs’ case.
“The burden is now squarely on plaintiffs’ counsel to prove their allegations and Toyota is confident that no such proof exists,” the company said.
“We firmly believe that Toyota’s Electronic Throttle Control System is safe, well designed, thoroughly tested, and robust,” Toyota continued. “We look forward to the time when the science and engineering behind the Electronic Throttle Control System are given a full and fair evaluation by the court. Toyota is confident that the evidence will confirm what millions of Toyota drivers prove every day: that they can depend upon their vehicles to provide safe, reliable transportation.”
The MDL contains more than 200 economic class actions brought on behalf of consumers and businesses and about 100 personal injury and wrongful death claims.
The company has recalled more than 10 million vehicles worldwide during the past year. It has blamed driver error, faulty floor mats and sticky accelerator pedals for the unintended acceleration.
Michael Moline can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Associated Press contributed to this report.