The Japanese automaker Toyota will not face the first trial in federal court over sudden-acceleration problems in its vehicles until February 2013, a judge ruled late last week.
The first case Toyota will face will be the Van Alfen suit. Paul Van Alfen and a passenger died in November 5, 2010 on an accident in which his 2008 Toyota Camry crashed into a wall after reportedly accelerating unexpectedly at an exit ramp in Wendover, Utah.
Bellwether cases are important because their outcomes serve as a benchmark for future cases. Selna said holding a trial in early 2013 will “markedly advance” the Toyota litigation and that a wrongful death case is most likely to meet that goal.
“The conduct of a trial in the first quarter of 2013 will markedly advance these proceedings,” said Selna. “Selection of a personal injury/wrongful death case” is most likely to “meet that goal.”
“My overriding goal is to ensure that we try the first bellwether case in the first quarter of 2013,” Selna said. Lawyers of both sides at the hearing were pleased to hear the judge’s choice who picked the Van Alfen case from a list of three cases submitted by the plaintiffs’ attorneys.
Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, recalled millions of U.S. vehicles, starting in 2009, after claims of defects and incidents involving sudden unintended acceleration. The recalls set off a wave of litigation, including hundreds of economic- loss suits and claims by individuals or their families alleging injuries and deaths.