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Judge Orders Single California Toyota Claims Proceeding

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By Jason Beahm on May 28, 2010 1:45 PM

A Los Angeles judge has consolidated more than 40 California Toyota lawsuits filed against the automaker over cars that have sped out of control leading to the massive recall of more than 8.5 million Toyota vehicles across the globe. Dozens of Toyota claims were quickly filed, and many of the attorneys involved wished to avoid consolidating them. 

The judge held off, however, on deciding where this single proceeding will take place. That decision rests with California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald George. He is expected to make his ruling in June.

As we recently reported, home-court advantage is in high demand for both plaintiff and defense attorneys. Defendant Toyota has urged the judge to move all California cases to Orange County. Orange County is purportedly known for having a more right leaning jury pool that could rule more favorably for businesses than other nearby jurisdictions. Massive contingency fees which could be collected in the Toyota lawsuits mean that the competition for location and representation is resulting in a legal "bloodbath."

The plans are to have the consolidated cases heard in a few selected jurisdictions. As a result, the number of attorneys on the cases could be greatly reduced.

The order, issued by Los Angeles County Superior Judge Carl West, recommends that the cases be assigned to a single judge in Orange County. Consolidation has advantages as it results in a streamlined process and avoids requiring courts to rule on the same issues repeatedly. The majority of the Toyota lawsuits, for instance, include the same or similar claims of personal injury and consumer fraud.

"The common thread is unintended acceleration that binds these cases together," Judge West told a group of nearly three dozen lawyers in his courtroom.

Orange County is also where many federal Toyota lawsuits have been consolidated, however, state and federal cases will still remain separate.

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