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Federal judge sets date for Toyota litigation hearing

[JURIST] US District Judge James Selna on Thursday ordered [text, PDF] a May 13 pre-trial conference for the consolidated litigation against Toyota Motor Corporation [corporate website, JURIST news archive] surrounding the company's auto safety failures. The court found that, "[b]ecause this docket involves both personal injury actions and actions for economic loss, the Court believes a somewhat unique structure is required." Toyota will defend itself in US District Court for the Central District of California [official website] against [Reuters report] nearly 100 consumer fraud class action and personal injury claims. In addition to civil suits, Toyota faces a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) [official website] probe [ABC report] into investor disclosures, as well as a criminal investigation by federal prosecutors surrounding "sudden acceleration" in Toyota cars.

Last week, the US Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) [official website] consolidated [JURIST report] more than 150 pending lawsuits against Toyota, transferring them to the district court. Earlier this month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) [official website] announced that it will seek a record civil penalty [JURIST report] of $16.375 million against Toyota for a four-month delay in notifying the agency about a problem with "sticky" gas pedals in various car models. In March, the California Orange County District Attorney (OCDA) [official website] filed a consumer protection suit [JURIST report] against Toyota, alleging that the company knowingly sold vehicles with acceleration defects. Toyota has been under federal scrutiny [NHTSA materials] since December and has recalled approximately eight million cars.

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