Attorneys ask judges to consolidate Toyota lawsuits

More than 20 attorneys from across the nation urged a federal judicial panel in San Diego on Wednesday to consolidate at least 200 damage lawsuits that charge out of control Toyotas have injured people and caused car resale values to plummet.

Attorneys for both Toyota and plaintiffs from 15 different federal court districts told the Federal Courts’ Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation that the 200-plus cases filed so far should all be assigned to one judge.

The panel took the matter under submission and is expected to make a decision within a few weeks.

Mark Robinson, who represents plaintiffs in Southern California, argued that the case should be heard on the West Coast.

“I think there’s a lot of reasons why this case should go to Southern California, but it’s really up to those judges who are going to have to make that decision,” Robinson said outside court.

Attorneys argue that the recalling of more than 8 million vehicles worldwide has cost consumers billions of dollars in lost resale value.

So far, lawsuits have been filed in California, Florida, Kentucky and Puerto Rico, according to court documents.

Robinson said the case involves numerous individual lawsuits against Toyota as well as potential class-action litigation.

The recall was sparked by the Aug. 28 crash that killed an off-duty CHP officer and three members of his family, when a Toyota-built Lexus shot out of control and crashed on state Route 125 in Santee.

“There’s a lot of people that are Toyota owners that have a lot of questions, have a lot of doubt, have a lot of fears when they drive their cars,” Robinson said. “They need answers to those questions.”

The lead attorney for Toyota refused comment as she left the federal courthouse.

Tim Howard, a Northeastern University law professor leading the group seeking class-action status for existing lawsuits against Toyota, said the case is important to American consumers.

“This is the largest economic injury case in automobile history,” Howard said. “You have a Japanese company that sells products in Japan, they sell products in China — all over the world — that’s held accountable to American standards.’'

Toyota has recalled 8.5 million vehicles since November for problems including floor mats that get tangled with the gas pedal and gas pedals that stick, causing sudden acceleration.