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Massive Legal Battle Shaping Up Against Toyota

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David Dyar

A panel of federal judges in San Diego, California is expected to rule on whether to consolidate a large number of lawsuits filed nationwide against Toyota.

Toyota has been inundated with lawsuits due to safety concerns that have led to the recall of more than eight-and-a-half million vehicles worldwide. Federal judges in California will hear arguments on whether to consolidate more than one hundred lawsuits claiming Toyota is responsible for economic losses suffered by Toyota owners.

"What they're addressing are the diminished values of the cars nationwide, as the result of Toyota's misinformation and mismanagement of the company, through no fault of the consumers,' said Northeastern University Law Professor Tim Howard, who leads a consortium of attorneys that will make the case for a single class action lawsuit.  Howard says it's a case that could cost Toyota dearly. "The amount of damages the cases will be claiming, you are looking at approximately eight to 10 million cars.  If we look at a $1,000 a car -- that would be eight million cars, $8 billion dollars worth of raw economic damages."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has linked more than 50 deaths to the unexpected acceleration problems -- a safety issue Toyota has blamed on floor mats and sticky gas pedals.

"And to me that was such an illogical conclusion that it was hard to believe," said Victor Andreone, who is one of the plaintiffs and expected to testify in a class action lawsuit.  He claims Toyota put his entire family at risk because it did not do enough to ensure the safety of its cars. "My daughter in Los Angeles has two grandkids under six. My son has a new baby of a year-and-a-half. My concern is obviously, from what I detected, the technical aspects of deficiencies were not properly investigated," he said.

A panel of seven judges will deliver a ruling on the proposed consolidation in April.  A Toyota official says the company will not comment on any ongoing litigation.

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