Toyota settles drivers’ lawsuits
By GREG RISLING
LOS ANGELES — Toyota Motor Corp. said Wednesday it has reached a settlement worth more than $1 billion in a case involving hundreds of lawsuits over acceleration problems in its vehicles.
The company said in a statement that the deal will resolve cases involving motorists who said the value of their vehicles was adversely affected by previous recalls stemming from sudden acceleration problems.
Lawyer Steve Berman, a plaintiffs’ attorney, said the settlement is the largest settlement in U.S. history involving automobile defects.
“We kept fighting and fighting and we secured what we think was a good settlement given the risks of this litigation,” Berman told The Associated Press.
The proposed deal was filed Wednesday and must receive the approval of a federal judge. As part of the settlement, Toyota said it will offer cash payments to eligible customers who sold or turned in their leased vehicles between September 2009 and December 2010.
The Japanese automaker also will launch a program to provide supplemental warranty coverage for certain vehicle components, and it will retrofit additional non-hybrid vehicle models that are subject to a floor mat recall with a free brake override system. The settlement would also establish additional driver education programs and fund new research into safety technologies.
“In keeping with our core principles, we have structured this agreement in ways that work to put our customers first and demonstrate that they can count on Toyota to stand behind our vehicles,” said Christopher Reynolds, Toyota vice president and general counsel.
Toyota has recalled more than 14 million vehicles worldwide due to acceleration problems in several models and brake defects with the Prius hybrid. Toyota has blamed driver error, faulty floor mats and sticky accelerator pedals for the unintended acceleration.
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