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A federal judge on Monday certified a class of potentially 320,000 owners and lessees of Prius hybrids who have reached a settlement with Toyota Motor Corp. over claims that their LED headlights are defective because they intermittently shut off. U.S. District Judge Manuel Real in Los Angeles scheduled a fairness hearing for the settlement on July 18. Toyota, which has admitted no fault, settled with the potential class on Oct. 4. The claims are unrelated to separate litigation over sudden unintended acceleration. Toyota has recalled more than 8 million vehicles and faces more than 200 lawsuits in multidistrict litigation (MDL) before U.S. District Judge James Selna in Santa Ana, Calif., regarding those claims. The Prius case was filed in May 2009, one of two federal class actions against Toyota over defective headlights. The settlement includes the second action, which was filed on Feb. 16, 2010. The deal resolves claims on behalf of U.S. owners and lessees of 2006 through 2009 model Prius vehicles “originally factory equipped with genuine high intensity discharges (“HID”) headlights,” according to court documents. The plaintiffs claimed that Toyota knew about the problem but failed to disclose it to drivers. They sued under California’s Unfair Competition Law and its Consumers Legal Remedies Act. Toyota, while agreeing to settle the claims, denied allegations that the vehicles were defective or “pose a safety hazard,” citing a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation that found no problems. “Rather, the HID headlights, like any headlights, are maintenance items that have a finite life and are expected to, and do, fail before the expiration of a vehicle’s life,” wrote Michael Mallow, a partner in the Los Angeles office of Loeb & Loeb, Toyota’s attorney. Mallow had no comment following Monday’s hearing. “Toyota has worked in good faith to resolve this matter in the interest of customer satisfaction, so we are pleased that all parties have reached an amicable agreement,” said Brian Lyons, a spokesman at Toyota. No dollar figure was assigned in the agreement, which reimburses in cash those class members who replaced their HID bulbs within five years or 50,000 miles of driving the vehicle, according to court documents. Those class members who paid for parts and labor for replacements after five years or 50,000 miles will receive reimbursement on a case-by-case basis. The settlement will extend the warranty for class members who have yet to repair their HID headlights. Costs for each class member are estimated at between $300 and $1,800 per repair, according to court documents. Lead plaintiffs’ attorney Eric Gibbs of San Francisco’s Girard Gibbs said following Monday’s hearing that most of the repairs have fallen in the range of $100 to $500 and that many of the class members are within the 50,000-mile cap. He hoped that the settlement would be approved, although the parties have yet to agree about attorney fees. He anticipated filing a request for fees in coming months. Amanda Bronstad can be contacted at [email protected].  

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