Judge will allow Toyota lawsuit to proceed


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A federal judge in Santa Ana on Friday said he will allow Toyota Motor Corp. vehicle owners to move forward with a class-action lawsuit that contends unintended acceleration problems caused their cars to lose value.

Toyota attorneys had asked U.S. District Judge James Selna to dismiss the case, contending that plaintiffs’ attorneys had not identified a defect in the cars and, therefore, had no case. But Selna, in a tentative ruling, said the case could proceed.


The judge did not rule on the merits of the case. He needed only to decide whether the plaintiffs had made allegations that, if true, could create liability for the automaker. He said he expects to issue a final ruling within one week.

Steve Berman, the Seattle attorney who is representing the plaintiffs, has accused the Japanese automaker of ignoring problems with the electronic throttle control units in millions of Toyota cars. In the past year, Toyota has recalled millions of cars to replace bulky floor mats and sticky accelerator pedals that could cause acceleration problems. It has said there is no problem with its electronic throttle units.

In a statement Friday, Toyota said it expects to prevail once the case is resolved.

“Importantly, today’s hearing did not address the merits of plaintiffs’ allegations and did not consider any evidence,” the automaker said in a news release. “At this early stage, this analysis by the Court requires a basic assumption that the plaintiffs’ allegations are true, even though they are unproven. The burden is now squarely on plaintiffs’ counsel to prove their allegations and Toyota is confident that no such proof exists.”

-- Stuart Pfeifer