"When we talked with Toyota owners, they all voiced the same desire – to drive the car back to the lot, hand them the keys and pick up a check." So says Steve Berman, a lawyer from Seattle who has filed a class action lawsuit against Toyota on behalf of "dozens" of owners in Arizona and Washington. Fat chance, right?

Not so fast, answers Berman. "Fortunately, we think the law allows for exactly that solution, and we are asking the courts to make it happen." While this isn't nearly the first class action suit filed against Toyota since revelations of the car's possible tendency to accelerate out of control, it is the first such case that seeks a full refund for each car sold.

According to The San Francisco Chronicle, most such suits are only seeking to get back around $500 per owner, or roughly the amount Kelley Blue Book believes the average Toyota has lost in resale value due to allegations the vehicles are unsafe. That would equal more than $3 billion. Berman's suit, though, could add up to many times that amount if successful.

Even if Berman's would-be class action suit fails, Toyota may be in for more rough times courtesy of the Attorneys Toyota Action Consortium (ATAC), which is adding racketeering claims to a number of its lawsuits. Northeastern University law professor Tim Howard, who is coordinating the ATAC, says, "It's become increasingly apparent that Toyota profits were not built on quality products, but on a willful pattern of deception, fraud and racketeering."

In any case, a group of federal judges in San Diego will meet in one week to determine whether the 110 or so class action suits against Toyota should be combined into one single case and whether that case should proceed to trial. We'll be watching.

[Source: San Francisco Chronicle via Inside Line | Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty]

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