Next month, a federal judge will rule on the years-long class-action lawsuit filed against Toyota for unintended acceleration in its vehicles.
Toyota reached a preliminary settlement in a class-action lawsuit over unintended acceleration early last year, but a "fairness hearing" on June 14 in California will determine whether it will pay as much as $1.63 billion for the settlement that covers as many as 22 million current and former Toyota owners (including Scion and Lexus owners). If approved, the "economic loss settlement" will compensate about nine million eligible owners with payments ranging from $37.50 to $125. Toyota will also add brake override software to vehicles not included in earlier recalls. The free software fix forces the engine computer to cut power if both the brake and accelerator pedals are depressed at the same time. Finally, $30 million would cover the funding of new driver training programs and research to advance vehicle safety features.
The class-action lawsuit, filed in 2010, claims the automaker's cars suddenly accelerated due to electronic flaws. However, independent reviews, including those from NASA, found no engineering defect that caused unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles. Even so, Toyota agreed to the preliminary settlement.
"This agreement is structured in ways that we believe provide real value to our customers and demonstrate that they can count on Toyota to stand behind our vehicles. We believe that approval of this settlement is in the best interests of all affected parties," Toyota spokeswoman Celeste Migliore told us.
The issue of alleged injuries or wrongful death from unintended acceleration is not covered under this settlement. The settlement also includes $200 million in lawyer fees paid to the owners and $27 million in costs.
Source: The Detroit News, Toyota