The Japanese company will begin talks to potentially settle hundreds of lawsuits alleging that defects caused some of its vehicles to unexpectedly accelerate, according to a court filing.
An order from U.S. District Judge James Selna in California federal court put a halt to the lawsuits while lawyers for Toyota and the plaintiffs try to resolve the cases. A similar process will be established for cases in California state court, Toyota said.
Toyota is facing hundreds of lawsuits over acceleration issues, which prompted the Japanese automaker to recall millions of vehicles starting in 2009.
The settlement process, which is open to all plaintiffs, is slated to begin in February, according to the order. It will apply to personal injury, wrongful death and property damage lawsuits arising from the alleged acceleration issues.
A spokeswoman for Toyota, Carly Schaffner, said the company stood behind the safety and quality of its vehicles. “In our view, the process will bring greater efficiency to the resolution of pending cases and provide a clear path forward for those claims that cannot be resolved outside of trial,” she said.
Cases that do not settle during the initial process will proceed to formal mediation and, if not resolved, will go to trial, the order said. Toyota has been hit with more than 200 proposed class action and 500 individual lawsuits alleging personal injuries or property damage caused by the alleged acceleration problems, according to a regulatory filing from the company.