Miller Barondess Moving Forward with Toyota Prius Stalling Suit
By John Petrick, Law360 Staff Writer — Wednesday, April 10, 2019 — Toyota must face drivers’ claims the company sold hybrid cars that it knew were prone to stalling, a California federal judge ruled, finding the proposed class of drivers raised valid questions about whether the automaker knew about the problem but said nothing.
The proposed class of drivers had sufficiently shown Toyota discovered problems with an element it added to some of its vehicles in 2005, according to a Tuesday ruling by U.S. District Judge Josephine L. Staton. Because of that, the company might have known that its 2010 to 2014 Priuses sometimes overheat, prompting the cars to shut down in response, she said.
Toyota had argued that the 2005 issue hadn’t stemmed from the so-called boost converters the drivers indicated were causing overheating problems in the newer hybrids, saying instead that a lead soldering issue was the culprit at that time.
“The court is not persuaded by Toyota’s arguments,” Judge Staton wrote. “Whether the true cause of the defect was the lead soldering is a factual issue the court cannot resolve at this stage.”
Drivers Remy McCarthy and Robert Phillips had accused Toyota in their February 2018 lawsuit of hiding the stalling problems in its Priuses despite a history of safety problems in hybrid cars, including earlier models of Highlander SUV hybrids, according to the suit.
While the judge kept alive claims that Toyota knew about potential stalling problems, she also trimmed the drivers’ contentions that a software update run during a 2014-2015 recall did more harm than good.
Drivers’ co-counsel Skip Miller of Miller Barondess LLP told Law360 on Wednesday he was glad the brunt of the case survived.
“We look forward to putting it before a jury,” he said. “There are far-reaching, critically important safety issues that need to be adjudicated.”
Representatives for Toyota did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
The drivers are represented by Louis R. (Skip) Miller, Amnon Z. Siegel, Casey B. Sypek and David I. Bosko with Miller Barondess LLP and Jeffrey L. Fazio and Dina E. Micheletti with Fazio Micheletti LLP.
Toyota Motor Corp. is represented by David L. Schrader, Joseph Duffy and Lisa Veasman with Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP.
The case is Remy McCarthy et al. v. Toyota Motor Corporation et al., case number 8:18-cv-00201, in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
–Editing by Michael Watanabe.
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