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Toyota class-action suit worth up to $1.6 billion on the way

Toyota had to recall millions of vehicles with breaking problems in 2010, and a class action lawsuit worth up to $1.6 billion will be decided next month.

By Richard ReadGuest blogger / May 19, 2013

A Toyota Motor Corp.,'s model is on display at the automaker's Tokyo head office in Tokyo, Wednesday, May 8, 2013.The automaker is heading for a huge class-action lawsuit stemming from widespread breaking problems in 2010

Itsuo Inouye/AP/File

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In 2010, Toyota recalled millions of vehicles for "unintended acceleration" issues, which generated lots of negative press for the automaker and put the brakes on Toyota sales.

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Though the recall has fallen out of the headlines, it's still the subject of a huge class action lawsuit working its way through federal court. According to a report in Detroit News, that case could be settled within the next month, and up to $1.6 billion hangs in the balance.

A QUICK RECAP

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began receiving complaints about sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles as far back as 2002, but it took the 2009 deaths of California Highway Patrol Officer Mark Saylor and three of his family members to bring the issue to the public's attention.

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Numerous investigations, accusationsspeculations, hoaxes, and conspiracy theories later, some conclusions were reached. In 2011, NHTSA revealed that it found no electronic flaws on Toyota vehicles that might've resulted in sudden acceleration. However, there were problems with the design of Toyota's accelerator pedals, which had caused them to become trapped beneath floormats in some cases. 

Toyota has been reluctant to accept blame in the matter and maintains that its electronics systems were never at fault. Earlier this year, however, the company settled out of court on a wrongful death case related to sudden acceleration. And now, Toyota is hoping for a repeat performance in one of the largest class action lawsuits in automotive history.

THE LOOMING SETTLEMENT

One month from today, U.S. District Judge James Selna will determine whether a $1.63 billion settlement in that class action case is fair to plaintiffs. If he rules in Toyota's favor, much of that cash will be distributed to current and previous Toyota, Lexus, and Scion owners, reimbursing them for the loss in resale value their vehicles suffered following the recall. 

Settlement funds will also be allocated to:

  • Legal fees accrued by Toyota owners ($200 million)
  • Research into active safety features ($15 million)
  • A media campaign aimed at driver education ($14.2 million)
  • A study of defensive driving and proper use of existing safety systems ($800,000)

If you've owned a Toyota, Lexus, or Scion vehicle, you could be one of 9,000,000 people entitled to cash payments ranging from $37.50 to $125. To learn more, visit ToyotaSettlement.com, or jump directly to the informative PDF

We'll keep you posted as the case progresses.

[h/t John Voelcker]

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