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Federal judge permits Toyota appeal of class action ruling

A judge for the US District Court for the Central District of California [official website] on Tuesday tentatively ruled that Toyota [corporate website; JURIST news archive] could appeal the ruling in a class action lawsuit [materials] filed over alleged sudden-acceleration defects. Judge James Selna denied a motion to dismiss [JURIST report] the class action suit against Toyota in May, allowing consumers who had not experienced the acceleration defect to join the class action lawsuit [Reuters report] and seek economic damages. Toyota owners alleged that their vehicles lost value because the company failed to disclose and fix the acceleration problems, a claim Toyota disputes. When Selna finalizes his ruling next week, Toyota will be permitted to appeal the decision to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website].

In December, Toyota settled [JURIST report] US federal investigations by agreeing to pay a record $32.4 million in extra fines for product defects and poor handling of a recall. The fines stem from two investigations conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) [official website]. The first, a fine of $16.375 million, concerned nearly five million vehicles with accelerator pedals entrapped by floor mats, which caused at least one fatal accident in California. The second, a fine of $16.050 million, resulted from Toyota's failure to notify the NHTSA of a safety defect in several Toyota models' steering relay rods. Toyota has been under federal scrutiny since December 2009, and has conducted several recalls. Toyota's product recalls have been analyzed by Forum guest columnist Bruce Aronson of Creighton University School of Law in the op-ed Learning from Toyota's Troubles - Where's the Board? [JURIST op-ed].

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