AUSTIN – Toyota Motor Corp., facing 15 unintended acceleration lawsuits in Texas and expecting more, seeks to consolidate them before a single judge.
On May 12, Toyota asked the state Judicial Panel on Multi District Litigation to stay all district court actions and appoint a judge to preside over pretrial proceedings.
Karl Viehman of the Dallas office of Hartline, Dacus, Barger, Dreyer & Kern wrote that the time and expense of litigating separate cases and the burden of producing the same witnesses and documents would be enormous.
"The appointment of a single pretrial judge to hear common pretrial issues will avoid this waste of resources, facilitate the uniform, fair and efficient resolution of the unintended acceleration cases, and promote the interests of justice," he wrote.
"Additionally, transfer to one pretrial court ensures that all pretrial issues will be decided consistently," he wrote.
"Little or no discovery has taken place in many of these newly filed cases and no depositions have been taken."
He wrote that at least 229 cases are pending in federal courts and 99 in state courts.
The U. S. Judicial Panel on Multi District Litigation consolidated federal suits on April 19, assigning them to U. S. District Judge James Selna of Santa Ana, Calif.
Last September, Toyota issued an advisory about the risk of a floor mat holding an accelerator pedal down after a driver removed pressure from the pedal.
Toyota instituted a voluntary floor mat recall and continued investigating. In January, Toyota instituted a voluntary recall of accelerator pedals.
Nationwide, some suits claim personal injury and some seek economic damages.
In an exceptional case pending before Montgomery County District Judge Fred Edwards, the family of Christopher Youngblood alleges wrongful death.
Lawyer Joe Enis of Conroe sued Toyota in March, claiming a faulty accelerator caused Jorge Guajardo's Camry to hit Youngblood's motorcycle.
Youngblood had stopped behind other vehicles at a red light. When the Camry hit the bike, the bike hit the vehicle ahead of it and a vehicle in another lane.
Police didn't blame the accelerator. They blamed alcohol.
They jailed Guajardo on a charge of intoxication manslaughter, and grand jurors indicted him three days later.
If the state's multi district panel grants Toyota's consolidation motion, Youngblood's case would transfer out of Montgomery County.