Judge Refuses to Let Toyota Escape Class Action Over Soy-Coated Wiring

1.9 Million Toyota RAV4 SUVs Under Investigation for Battery Fire Risks

A federal judge in California refused to allow Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. to escape for a second time a proposed class action alleging that its switch to soy-based covering for its wires in its vehicles attracted rats. According to a Law360 news report, the judge said the court is bound by the Ninth Circuit’s findings in the case.

U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney declined to change the appeals court’s ruling stating that under the law of the case doctrine, a district court is precluded from reconsidering an issue that has been decided by the same or higher court. What this means is that in this case, the district court will not dismiss the implied warranty claims that the Ninth Court found were sufficiently pled. It will also not allow to go forward the California Unfair Competition Law claim that the circuit court dismissed with prejudice.

The Issues at Play

The 21 plaintiffs in the class action had alleged that Toyota had switched to a soybean-based coating for the wires in a range of vehicle types and models, which attracted rats to chew on the wires. This caused damage to the vehicle, which Toyota then refused to repair. According to court papers, the car owners alleged that Toyota got notice of this issue from vehicle owners and insurance companies, but failed to fix the problem or inform the public that this issue existed.

In June 2018, U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Guilford dismissed the lawsuit entirely finding that the coating was a design defect and therefore not covered by Toyota’s express warranty and that the implied warranty could not be made to cover damage caused by the rats.

In August 2020, the Ninth Circuit revived the implied warranty claims saying Judge Guilford had misidentified the rats as the problem when the real problem was the fact that Toyota had switched to soy-based coating. The panel found that the defect was not the rat-caused damage, by the soy-coated wiring, which existed at the time the vehicles were sold to consumers. The plaintiffs then filed a consolidated class-action lawsuit.

Filing a Class Action

If you are a vehicle owner who has suffered significant losses as the result of a defective auto or defective product, you may be able to band with other vehicle owners and file a class-action lawsuit seeking compensation. If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of a defective auto, you can seek compensation for losses such as medical expenses, lost income, hospitalization and pain and suffering. An experienced auto defect lawyer who also has a successful track record with class-action lawsuits can help you better understand your legal rights and options.

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