Wed, May 18, 2011 - Page 7 News List

US judge rules against Toyota over alleged defect

AFP, WASHINGTON

A US judge has ruled that plaintiffs alleging an acceleration defect in Toyota vehicles can proceed with cases against the Japanese automaker, the plaintiffs said on Monday.

US District Judge James Selna of the Central District of California threw out Toyota’s motion to dismiss the cases, ruling that there was sufficient evidence for the defect to allow consumers to seek damages.

The lawsuits allege that Toyota knew the vehicles could accelerate unexpectedly, but refused to install a brake-override or fail-safe system, allegations denied by the auto giant.

“This matter is of critical -importance to tens of millions of Toyota owners and we look forward to proving our case in court,” said Steve Berman, an attorney representing the vehicle owners. “We believe — and intend to prove — that Toyota was aware of a defect and chose not to take action to protect consumers.”

Toyota denied the existence of any defect and said it expected the court to eventually rule in its favor.

“The burden is now squarely on plaintiffs’ counsel to prove their allegations and Toyota is confident that no such proof exists,” the automaker said in a statement. “Plaintiffs’ counsel is still chasing a phantom theory of a defect in Toyota’s Electronic Throttle Control System that they remain wholly unable to identify.”

Last month, Toyota announced the recall of 54,000 Tundra trucks in the US and Canada because of a faulty drive shaft and the recall of 300,000 sport utility vehicles to fix faulty airbag sensors.

In February, the company recalled 2.3 million vehicles to fix floor mat and carpet defects that could jam the accelerator.

That move brought the firm’s total worldwide recalls to more than 12 million vehicles since late 2009. The recalls have battered the firm’s previously stellar reputation for safety.

Toyota has paid US authorities nearly US$50 million in penalties related to the recalls.

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