To many, California is known for its strong consumer protection laws. That explains why the lawyers for the class action involving unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles sought to use a California law to determine the damages from loss of value to their Toyota vehicle. But late last week, a Santa Ana judge ruled that the 70% of economic damages lawsuits that are outside of California cannot “piggyback” on the state’s law. Instead, lawsuits will likely have to refer to their own state’s consumer laws, which are often much more restrictive than in California.
“Application of California law to a nationwide class, at least in some instances, would drastically expand the scope of relief available to plaintiffs (to the detriment of Toyota),” wrote U.S. District Judge James Selna. “The overwhelming majority of states don’t allow recovery if the only damage is economic damage.”
Needless to say, lawyers for the plaintiffs suing Toyota are not pleased with Judge Selna’s ruling. But the news wasn’t all bad. Previously, Toyota’s lawyers had motioned to consider a government report which blamed unintentional acceleration accidents largely on driver error as “judicial notice.” But Judge Selna ruled that the report was subject to dispute in light of other reports that pointed to mechanical and electronic problems as possible causes for those accidents.
But at the end of the day, Judge Selna’s ruling is a larger win for Toyota. “We’re gratified the Court has recognized that allowing a few handpicked plaintiffs to set the course for customers throughout the United States through this kind of ‘procedural engineering’ would go against established law, diminish Toyota’s substantive rights and undermine the purposes of these Multidistrict proceedings,” the company said in a statement.
Photo credit: Autoviva.com