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Settlement will cover equipment installation, compensation for lost value

Steve W. Berman, Managing Partner at Hagens Berman, has achieved a key victory over what is expected to be the world's largest automaker in 2012.  

Toyota Motor Comp. (TYO:7203) on Wednesday filed documents to settle a major class action lawsuit organized by Mr. Berman over unintended acceleration in a variety of models.  The case was being held in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, in Santa Ana, Calif.

Under the settlement terms [PDF], Toyota will set aside an estimated $1.2-1.4B USD, making the settlement agreement the biggest in automotive history, according to Mr. Berman's team.  The settlement fund will be used to compensate the owners of 3.25m Toyota vehicles for lost resale value.  The owners will also be eligible for free installation of a brake-override system.

After a fiery crash of a Lexus (Toyota's luxury brand) killed four in California in 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched a formal investigation into acceleration issues.  While some suspected electrical origins for the issue, no such issue was ever replicated.  Ultimately the problems were blamed on faulty floor mats, which could entrap pedals on the Toyota vehicles, leaving drivers unable to brake.  Millions of vehicles were recalled in the company's largest recall ever.  Toyota was forced to also temporarily suspend sales in 2010.

Toyota Pedal
Toyota's acceleration issues were eventually pinned on faulty floor mats
[Image Source: Today's Machining World]

Mr. Berman praised Toyota's decision to settle the outstanding litigation and move ahead, commenting, "After two years of intense work, including deposing hundreds of engineers, poring over thousands of documents and examining millions of lines of software code, we are pleased that Toyota has agreed to a settlement that was both extraordinarily hard-fought and is exceptionally far-reaching."

Toyota chief North American legal officer -- Christopher P. Reynolds -- sought to take the opportunity to restate Toyota's point that its electronic systems were never proven to have issues, remarking, "This was a difficult decision -- especially since reliable scientific evidence and multiple independent evaluations have confirmed the safety of Toyota’s electronic throttle control systems."

Toyota vehicles
3.25 million vehicles are covered by the settlement. [Image Source: AP]

He adds, "[Ultimately] we concluded that turning the page on this legacy legal issue through the positive steps we are taking is in the best interests of the company, our employees, our dealers and, most of all, our customers."

Toyota certainly has enough resources to cover the settlement.  The company witnessed a rocky 2011 due to parts shortages from the tsunami and related domestic issues (see: Fukushima nuclear disaster).  But this year Toyota is expected to regain the sales crown, which was last year held by General Motors Comp. (GM).  Toyota is expected to announce sales rose 22 percent in 2012 to 9.7m vehicles, despite a Chinese boycott due to a territorial spat, more government fines, and more recalls.

Sources: Hagens Berman, Toyota [PDF], LA Times

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RE: Public Perception
By dsumanik on 12/27/2012 4:31:54 PM , Rating: 0
All you "expert drivers" would be the first ones to crash then throw a hissy fit over the fallout .

Scenario :

busy rush hour traffic after a long day, everybody on the road is tired and stressed to begin with.

some dumbass makes a left turn right in front of you at an intersection and you need to slow down or you WILL TBONE HIM.... Not your fault, but you need to slow down or you will crash.

Your car suddenly accellerates.


this highly common scenario combined with unpredictable acceleration is a death trap.... Whether its a computer chip or floormat... Result is the same.


RE: Public Perception
By ChronoReverse on 12/27/2012 4:57:55 PM , Rating: 2
I'd have stepped on the brakes which are sufficient in all cars to stop a car at full acceleration.

Plus all the studies have shown that every single "sudden acceleration" case was due to stepping on the accelerator instead of brakes (except for the single case where a third party mat jammed it down - lucky I'm using factory mats).

RE: Public Perception
By conquistadorst on 12/28/2012 9:45:20 AM , Rating: 1
That's a great hypothetical what-if scenario but that doesn't appear to actual reality of what the issue was. It was neither the accelerator chip nor the floor mats. It was a few isolated cases of user error which happens everyday.

I'm not so upset about Toyota getting screwed as I am upset about the fact the "media" was able to successfully tar and feather a corporation based not only on hear-say but completely contradicted every fact and study that was brought to light. They piled on so much public disdain, applied enough public pressure to get them to settle this lawsuit, and worst of all - actually got away with all of it with no repercussion.

If this isn't a blatant case of libel, I don't know what is.

"Spreading the rumors, it's very easy because the people who write about Apple want that story, and you can claim its credible because you spoke to someone at Apple." -- Investment guru Jim Cramer

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