Plaintiffs want Toyota wrongful death suits kept out of MDL

Steve Korris Jun. 10, 2010, 5:00am


AUSTIN – Wrongful death claims against Toyota Motor Corp. don't belong in the statewide consolidation of lawsuits being filed over unintended acceleration, a Texas plaintiffs' attorney claims.

"Plaintiffs contend that the cases are not related as this case involves various year, make and model vehicles," Todd Tracy of Dallas wrote to the Texas Judicial Panel on Multi District Litigation on May 25.

He predicted a "financial and logistical nightmare" if the panel grants a consolidation motion that former Supreme Court Justice Scott Brister filed for Toyota on May 12.

"Plaintiffs contend that TMC should not be given any latitude whatsoever in this matter as TMC would not be in this precarious position had it not introduced into the stream of commerce over eight million defective vehicles worldwide," Tracy wrote.

He accused other plaintiffs' lawyers of piggybacking the pleadings of his clients.

"It has been brought to the attention that plaintiffs' counsel's pleadings have been used as a form pleading by other sudden unintended acceleration victims' attorneys," he wrote.

He wrote that consolidation would subject his clients to attorneys with less experience and reduce their representation to the lowest common denominator.

Names of 14 other Texas lawyers appear in Tracy's brief.

Tracy represents the estate of Sharon Ransom, suing Toyota in Dallas County.

According to Tracy, Ransom and others drowned in December after a 2008 Avalon accelerated through an intersection in Southlake, hit a tree and landed in a pond.

Tracy and Melissa Smith of Marshall represent the estate of George Fitts, suing Toyota in Harrison County.

According to Tracy, Fitts died in November in an accident on U. S. 79, south of Hearne, after his 2007 Lexus accelerated out of control.

Tracy wrote that consolidation would prejudice his clients because they are ready to set cases for trial and proceed on the merits.

"TMC incorrectly assumes and represents that all plaintiffs across the state of Texas will retain and employ the exact same expert witnesses," he wrote.

"TMC incorrectly represents that the fact witnesses will be the same for all parties," he wrote.

"TMC's position overlooks the glaring fact that numerous plaintiffs have sued their originating and local dealerships under breach of express and implied warranty and misrepresentation claims," he wrote.

"Some plaintiffs allege that the defect lies with the floor mats, some with the accelerator pedal and others due to the electronic throttle control system," he wrote.

"Unlike other matters wherein transfer and consolidation was granted due to a single catastrophic event causing plaintiffs' injuries and damages, this matter involves numerous defects, millions of vehicles, and no definitive answer from TMC as to exactly what went wrong," he wrote.

The multi district panel can consolidate related cases from courts around the state and appoint a judge to preside over pretrial proceedings.

For trial, cases return to the courts where they started.

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