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US federal panel consolidates lawsuits against Toyota

[JURIST] The US Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation (MDL) [official website] on Friday consolidated [order, PDF] more than 150 [Reuters report] pending lawsuits against Toyota Motor Corporation [corporate website; JURIST news archive] and transferred them to the US District Court for the Central District of California [official website]. The MDL panel said that transferring the cases to California to be heard by Judge James Selna [official profile, PDF] would make the litigation process more streamlined.

Each of the actions currently before the Panel asserts economic damages on behalf of certain classes and/or individuals stemming from an alleged defect in certain Toyota vehicles that causes sudden, unintended acceleration. The cases involve common questions of fact. No doubt, centralization under Section 1407 will eliminate duplicative discovery; prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings, including with respect to class certification; and conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel, and the judiciary.

Other transfer options included US District Courts in the Eastern District of Louisiana, and the Middle District of Florida [official websites], where large numbers of cases against Toyota were filed.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) [official website] said earlier this week that that it would seek [JURIST report] a record $16.375 million [press release] penalty against Toyota for a four month delay in waiting to notify the agency about problems with allegedly "sticky" gas pedals. Toyota has two weeks to appeal the fine. Toyota has been under federal scrutiny [NHTSA materials] since December and has recalled approximately eight million cars. Last month, California's Orange County District Attorney [official website] filed a consumer protection lawsuit against Toyota alleging [JURIST report] that the company knowingly sold vehicles with acceleration defects.

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