Toyota Motor Corporation has won final approval of a settlement, in connection with a class-action lawsuit, valued at $1.63 billion with U.S. consumers who claimed that recalls related to sudden unintended acceleration caused their vehicles to lose value.
According to a Bloomberg News report, U.S. District Judge James V. Selna signed off on the settlement during a hearing in Santa Ana on July 19, 2013. The judge had previously put off a decision until he could get further documentation about how the money would be distributed. Judge Selna remarked during the hearing that the judgment is “fair, adequate and reasonable” and that every single dollar in the cash fund will go to claimants.
Terms of the Settlement
The settlement resolves complaints brought by Toyota drivers after the recall of more than 10 million vehicles worldwide in 2009 and 2010 for problems related to sudden acceleration including sticky gas pedals and faulty floor mats that could slip out of position and jam the accelerator.
The settlement includes $757 million in cash including $227 million in attorneys’ fees and costs, $857 million in non-monetary benefits including free installation of brake-override system for eligible vehicles. Plaintiffs who submitted claims will get 100 percent their claims in this settlement. Individual payments range from $9.74 to $10,000 depending on the model of Toyota that was owned, rented or leased. However, this settlement doesn’t resolve personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits involving Toyota sudden acceleration cases.
The Significance of this Victory
This class action is a major victory for consumers. Class-action lawsuits play an important role in holding large corporations accountable for putting defective products in the market. These lawsuits are not appropriate for individuals who have suffered serious personal injury or have lost a loved one as a result of the defective product. However, in this case, for those individuals whose vehicles’ resale value took a hit as a result of the safety recalls, this result is major victory. There is no question that Toyota’s brand image took a serious blow with this lawsuit.
This lawsuit will also be viewed as an example, as a warning, by other automakers. I commend the attorneys who represented the class members in this case. They have performed a great service to all consumers by having the conviction and courage to go after an industry giant. The maximum compensation to class members in this case is $10,000. But, it’s hard to put a value on keeping negligent corporations in check and holding their feet to the fire. Lawsuits such as this one show that our civil justice system does work.