On January 26, 2010, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. (“Toyota”) announced that it would recall nearly 4 million vehicles that were at risk of accelerating unexpectedly because of a floor mat problem. Both Toyota and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a safety warning on September 29, 2009, urging owners of several Toyota and Lexus vehicle models to remove the driver side floor mat immediately. According to the announcement, the gas pedal could become jammed on the floor mat, causing the vehicle to accelerate unexpectedly.
Toyota also announced that it was suspending the manufacturing and sales of many of its models in the U.S. following a series of safety recalls. The recalls included both Toyota and Lexus vehicles. On January 22, Toyota announced another recall of 2.3 million American cars and trucks, stating that the gas pedal mechanisms could wear out over time and cause the accelerator to stick.
On February 5, 2010, Toyota announced a third recall that included more than 300,000 third-generation 2010 Prius hybrid vehicles, and a planned recall for an additional 14,500 2010 Lexus HS250h vehicles. The Prius recall was the result of numerous complaints that brakes in the vehicles did not work properly, and could momentarily stop working after the car hit a bump. Toyota recalled the Prius for a software update for the Antilock Brake System (ABS). As expected, Toyota’s problems have led to numerous lawsuits filed across the country.
Recently, Toyota has asked a federal court to dismiss hundreds of sudden acceleration lawsuits. The products liability lawsuits that the automaker was seeking to dismiss have been consolidated under U.S. District Judge James Selna. On November 19, 2010, Judge Selna concluded that lawyers for owners of the Toyota vehicles provided sufficient evidence to allow their cases to go forward. In his tentative ruling, he concluded that “[t]he record of complaints made by Toyota customers shows that Toyota was clearly aware of the alleged SUA problem. Although Toyota discounts plaintiffs’ allegations of an SUA defect, the amassed weight of these complaints suggests that plaintiffs’ [unexplained SUA events] were not isolated cases.” As such, Judge Selna held that the plaintiffs sufficiently alleged a claim from fraudulent concealment under California law. Judge Selna stated that he will issue a final ruling on the matter at a later time.