Refund remedy for Toyota owners gains steam, expanding now to five states and growing
SEATTLE –Toyota owners in Colorado, Florida and Maryland have added a new demand in the ongoing struggle against the car manufacturer concerning a long litany of safety complaints and issues: a refund.
In the first-of-its-kind class-action lawsuit, attorneys charge that the leading auto manufacturer produced vehicles so profoundly flawed with safety defects, and completely botched the recall process, that the only remedy is for owners to return the cars to Toyota (NYSE: TM).
Steve Berman, the attorney representing consumers in Colorado, Florida and Maryland, says Toyota owners have lost trust in the world's largest automobile manufacturer after the company attempted to explain away serious safety issues with a litany of excuses and offered Toyota owners repairs that may not correct the problems.
Class-action lawsuits are now pending in a total of five states, including Washington and Arizona, which Berman filed earlier this week. Similar complaints will be filed in Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Oregon early next week, with other states to be added in the near future.
"From the moment Toyota learned about the safety flaws, they lurched from misstep to misstep, first claiming problems didn't exist, and then blaming everything from floor mats to consumers to subcontractors, all the while leaving consumers confused and concerned," Berman said. "Parents have told me that they cannot take the chance of putting their children in their Toyota, no matter how much the company touts the effectiveness of the recall fixes."
Toyota estimates it has completed only one million repairs worldwide. Six million cars, trucks and SUVs were recalled by Toyota in the U.S., which could take several months if not years to complete, published reports state. Safety concerns tied to unintended acceleration episodes of Toyota vehicles have been linked to more than 50 deaths in the United States, the law firm claims.
"When we talked with Toyota owners, they all voiced the same desire - to drive their Toyota back to the dealer, hand them the keys and pick up a check," Berman said. "Fortunately, we think the law allows for exactly that solution, and we are asking the courts to make it happen."
"Other cases against Toyota would only provide consumers a monetary award if successful," said Berman. "I don't know of any parent who would be willing to put their kids in a potentially unsafe car in exchange for a few hundred bucks."
The suits, filed in U.S. District Court, contend that purchasers should be able to revoke the acceptance of sales contracts based on the alleged breach of warranty among other claims of misdeed by the car manufacturer, and should be entitled to a full refund. The filings also ask the courts to order Toyota to stop selling the vehicles in question until the safety problems are corrected.
If approved by the courts, the class actions would protect all Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Maryland and Washington residents who own a Toyota vehicle included on the recall lists. The firm expects to file in several other states.
Consumers are also facing problems when they try to sell Toyotas. Experts ranging from Kelley Blue Book to Edmunds indicate that the resale value of the vehicles involved in the safety recalls have plunged as much as 6 percent in the short time since the recalls began, the suits state.
Berman noted that the sales programs initiated by Toyota dealers to jump-start flaccid sales are also hurting consumers. "We know of families wanting to sell their Toyotas and move to another brand, but dealers' discounts are further savaging the resale market. Toyota's actions are economically trapping consumers into driving cars many consider unsafe."
Hundreds of consumers across the nation expressed interest in the case so far. To learn more about the suits, or to view a complete list of vehicles involved, visit: www.hbsslaw.com/cases/toyota.
About Hagens Berman
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is a consumer-rights class-action law firm with offices in San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, and Phoenix. Since 1993, HBSS continues to successfully fight for consumer rights in large, complex litigation. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at www.hbsslaw.com.