Judge said that Toyota can’t force named plaintiffs to arbitrate their claims

Article by Christian A., on February 27, 2012

A tentative court ruling states that Toyota Motor Corp. can't compel plaintiffs to arbitrate their claims instead of proceeding to trial in a supposed class-action lawsuit over losses from unintentional sudden acceleration. Last Friday, U.S. District Judge James Selna in Santa Ana, Calif., stated that Toyota waived its right to compel arbitration for 15 of the 20 plaintiffs and that, for the five plaintiffs left, Toyota wasn't a party to the arbitration agreements between the plaintiffs and the Toyota dealers.

There is a hearing set on Feb. 27 in federal court in Santa Ana for Toyota's lawyers to attempt to convince the judge to change his decision.

In the tentative order, Judge Selna said that by failing to assert a right to compel arbitration until today, Toyota has “encouraged plaintiffs to pursue their current litigation strategy, including pursuing their claims on a class-wide basis in a federal forum.”

He said that if the claims were required to be submitted to arbitration now, these would be prejudiced. Selna has presided over the consolidated litigation since 2010.

He has set three trials for 2013 that will serve as bellwether cases, which the court and the lawyers could use to test evidence and liability theories before proceeding to other trials and a ruling by Selna on whether to approve a class-action status for the plaintiffs.

Toyota's request for majority of the economic loss cases to be sent to arbitration was based on the company’s argument that customers who purchased or leased Toyota vehicles involved in the litigation inked arbitration agreements that waive their rights to join a class-action case. [source: Autonews]

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