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Settlement conferences for scores of Toyota lawsuits alleging sudden acceleration defects are set to begin in February.
Hundreds of plaintiffs have filed lawsuits against Toyota over alleged mechanical defects in their vehicles that caused them to accelerate suddenly and crash, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Toyota's settlement talks are advantageous for both the company and the plaintiffs.
The settlement conferences for Toyota's mounting lawsuits come at an appropriate time. Between 2009 and 2011, Toyota recalled more than 8 million vehicles after consumer complaints of sudden acceleration defects. Following the recall, hundreds of lawsuits were filed: some sought compensation for injury and wrongful death, while others focused on solely economic losses.
While Toyota has already settled the lawsuits alleging solely economic losses and has even won a few trials, it recently faced its first loss in court. An Oklahoma jury decided in October that defective electronics in a Toyota Camry caused an accident that left one woman dead and another seriously injured, reports the Los Angeles Times. Jurors awarded $3 million in damages.
In addition to the recent loss, Toyota still must resolve the more than 300 lawsuits filed against the company. So far, Toyota has spent $2 billion in legal costs, so it's likely that the company wants to try and settle the cases before it incurs more monetary and reputational damage.
What Happens Next?
Settlement talks will begin in February on a case-by-case basis, the LA Times reports. Settlement conferences aim to resolve lawsuits before trial. If the talks are successful, the lawsuit ends there and no trial is needed. Once plaintiffs agree to settle, they give up their right to pursue further legal action in exchange for compensation.
For Toyota, if the cases don't settle, then the company will seek formal mediation, reports Reuters. In mediation, the litigants sit down with a neutral third party to try to resolve the dispute. The mediator facilitates the communication and helps come up with solutions that both parties can agree on.
However, if settlement talks and mediations prove unsuccessful, then the remaining cases will proceed to trial.