Toyota will pony up $1.1 billion to make sudden-acceleration lawsuits go away, according to a proposal filed in federal court in Santa Ana today. As part of the largest settlement in U.S. history involving automobile defects, Toyota would send cash to eligible customers who sold or turned in their leased vehicles in 2009 or 2010, launch a customer-support program providing coverage for certain vehicle components and retrofit additional non-hybrid vehicle models subject to a floor-mat recall with a free brake-override system.
The settlement must still be accepted by U.S. District Court Judge James V. Selna at Santa Ana's Reagan courthouse. Selna in June 2011 scheduled a trial to begin in February 2013.
And the same judge this past June issued a tentative sanction against the automaker for an inspection of a crashed 2008 Toyota Camry, with Selna writing the mechanics' check cast "a cloud of suspicion" over Toyota Motor Sales USA's behavior and that he would warn jurors to regard the testimony of Toyota personnel who were present at the Nov. 19, 2010, inspection with "greater caution than that of other witnesses."
"This agreement marks a significant step forward for our company, one that will enable us to put more of our energy, time and resources into Toyota's central focus: making the best vehicles we can for our customers and doing everything we can to meet their needs," states Christopher P. Reynolds, vice president and general counsel for Toyota's U.S. sales arm, in an email.
Plaintiff attorney Steve Berman reportedly told the Associated Press that it's "a good settlement given the risks of this litigation."
The Weekly in 2009 ran a cover story on problems drivers in Orange County and around the country were having with their Priuses.
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We've also kept up with the twists and turns of the case in Selna's courtroom, as well as a separate, yet-to-be resolved action the Orange County District Attorney's office filed against Toyota.