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New settlement phase announced in sudden-acceleration litigation

Years from now, when Toyota Motor Corp. executives look back on the history of their company, they will undoubtedly remember and reflect on the term “sudden acceleration.”

Those two words and what follows from them are well known to consumers and motorists across the country, including in Ohio.

Most centrally, and in the minds of many people, sudden acceleration is indelibly linked with car accidents caused by certain Toyota vehicles speeding up without warning, with drivers being unable to stop or slow them down.

That problem has been associated with a number of fatal and other serious motor vehicle accidents and been a major headache for Toyota for several years. It has led to a massive amount of wrongful death and product liability litigation commenced in state and federal courts across the country and also resulted in a global recall of more than 10 million of the company’s vehicles.

Further still, it has subjected Toyota to huge fines and other penalties to resolve problems relating to the company’s violation of safety laws, owners’ claims concerning diminution of value for resold vehicles and other matters.

And now sudden acceleration cases are about to enter a new phase. News has recently emerged indicating that Toyota will soon begin to enter into what has been termed an “intensive settlement process” aimed at resolving hundreds of sudden acceleration state and federal lawsuits that have been consolidated into two courts for convenience.

The company is scheduled to begin settlement conferences next February, with each of the 300-plus cases that have been consolidated to be negotiated separately.

A lead attorney for the plaintiffs in the consolidated litigation hails the recent development, saying that injured claimants can now “get to a point of meaningful conclusion.”

Source: Los Angeles Times, “Toyota looks to settle sudden-acceleration lawsuits,” Ken Bensinger, Dec. 12, 2013