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Law firms form consortium in Toyota recall litigation


SAN DIEGO—About 25 law firms seeking class action status for lawsuits filed against Toyota Motor Corp. in more than 20 states have formed a consortium, an attorney coordinating the group said Thursday.

Approximately 20 other lawsuits seeking class action status on behalf of consumers also have been filed against the automaker because of accelerator problems that have led to the recall of more than 8 million automobiles.

Those 40 suits do not include individual personal injury claims that consumers have filed against Toyota.

Tim Howard, coordinator of the Attorneys Toyota Action Consortium, said a court hearing on whether all the class action cases will be consolidated is expected March 25 before a multidistrict panel in U.S. District Court in San Diego.

Mr. Howard is a professor of law and policy at Northeastern University and an attorney at Howard Associates P.A. in Tallahassee, Fla.

The lawsuits seeking class action status share common allegations that consumers lost value in and the use of their cars because of defective parts that sparked the recall.

Total damages sought in the consolidated class actions could exceed $2 billion, based on a calculation that millions of cars lost hundreds of dollars in value and their owners lost the use of their cars while they were unsafe to drive or were being repaired, Mr. Howard said.

The value is diminished “because once someone knows your car might be a poltergeist car, people don’t have to take that kind of risk,” Mr. Howard said. “They can find other cars on the market. Even if they solve (the problems), that lingering fear is going to affect the consciousness of the consumer.”

Toyota also is facing securities-related class action litigation.

For example, the San Diego-based law firm of Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins L.L.P. said Monday that it had filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on behalf of people who purchased Toyota securities between Aug. 4, 2009, and Feb. 2, 2010.

The complaint alleges that Toyota and some of its officers and directors misled investors by failing to disclose design defects, causing its stock to trade at artificially inflated prices during the class period.