Toyota’s vehicle recalls have been front-page news for some time now, and this spawned many lawsuits from Toyota owners. Some of these plaintiffs have been injured when their vehicles malfunctioned. But there are also many plaintiffs with recalled models who don’t have any personal injury or property damages to point to.
To be successful, a plaintiff must show that the manufacture or design caused injury (Soule v General Motors Corp. (1994) 8 C4th 548, 560, 34 CR2d 607). So, the $64,000 question (more likely, $64 million) is whether the plaintiffs who have not been involved in an accident with their Toyota vehicle will be able to make the required showing of injury.
Plaintiffs in many suits are relying on the economic harm of decreased vehicle value. Kelley Blue Book has already lowered the resale value of Toyotas and it’s expected to drop more. As quoted on Manufacturing.net’s blog, Tom Baker, a University of Pennsylvania law professor, called these class-action suits based on economic injury
“more scary for Toyota than the cases where people actually got injured…[because] you could have millions of individual car owners who could (each) be owed $1,000. “
Will these “economic damages only” cases succeed? And keep your eye on the next legal woe for Toyota — suits brought by shareholders seeking redress for the recalls’ disasterous effect on Toyota’s share price.
From a legal standpoint, we are seeing just the beginning of the fallout from the recall.
For more on potential tort causes of action that could be brought against Toyota, see California Tort Guide (3d ed Cal CEB 1996).
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