Santa Ana is Ground Zero for Toyota Legal War

Santa Ana will be ground zero for sudden-acceleration lawsuits against Toyota Motor Corp. after a panel of judges last week consolidated the cases to the federal court there.

The world's largest automaker faces at least 177 consumer and shareholder lawsuits seeking class-action status and at least 57 individual suits claiming personal injuries or deaths caused by sudden acceleration.

U.S. District Judge James Selna will hear the combined suits. The Santa Ana court was chosen because it is close to Toyota's U.S. sales headquarters in Torrance.

Courtesy of Elizabeth James
A Prius winds up in the drink.

Centralization "will eliminate duplicative discovery, prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings, including with respect to class certification, and conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel, and the judiciary," the panel said in

the ruling posted on its website

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Toyota has already suffered a couple legal setbacks the past couple weeks.

Over the objections of Toyota's lawyers, an arbitrator ruled last week that the company's former attorney Dimitrios Biller can use internal Toyota documents to press his claim that he was hired to "plan and carry out discovery fraud" on behalf of the company.

The Supreme Court of Texas ruled Aug. 27 that Toyota must face charges that it acted in contempt of court in a 2007 rollover suit by hiding evidence from the plaintiff.

In announcing its lawsuit against Toyota in March, the Orange County District Attorney's Office unveiled a complaint hotline and other steps consumers could take to file complaints against the automaker and track the cases against Toyota.

Scores of lawsuits were filed after Toyota began recalling more than 12 million vehicles over the last year, many of them related to sudden acceleration.

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