Toyota Motor Corp. can’t be sued for economic loss by car owners in Florida who didn’t actually experience an unintended acceleration event, according to last Friday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge James Selna in Santa Ana, Calif. that finalizes last April’s tentative decision. He also ruled that New York plaintiffs can’t sue if this didn’t occur to them or if they didn’t experience a measurable loss when attempting to sell or trade in their vehicles.
The court dismissed most claims by Florida and New York car owners who asserted that Toyota reduced their vehicles’ value by its failure to divulge or repair defects related to unintended acceleration.
Carl Tobias, law professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia, believes that the decision will have an impact on “most” of the economic loss claims in those states. He said that assembling a class would be harder since there would be considerably fewer eligible parties. At the hearing on April 23, lawyers for Toyota and the plaintiffs said that the ruling could remove millions of vehicle owners from the litigation.
In an earlier decision, Selna said that California plaintiffs could file a suit for economic loss even if have never experienced an unintended acceleration incident. Last June, Selna said that California law can’t be used by car owners in other states to pursue their claims.
Steve Berman, a lead lawyer for plaintiffs claiming economic loss, expressed disappointment that Judge Selna is requiring that to sue, the class members have to “drive ticking time bombs.” He said that this matter will be brought to the highest courts in Florida and New York, considering that Toyota hasn’t been able to repair “thousands of crashes” that have led to “hundreds of deaths.”