U.S. District Judge James Selna – who has presided over the unintended acceleration cases against Toyota since 2010 – says the automaker does not have the right to compel 20 named plaintiffs into arbitration. The plaintiffs are seeking class-action status for lawsuits covering economic losses from the alleged issue of unintended acceleration. Toyota had maintained that leasing and purchase agreements signed by the owners denies owners the right to class-action litigation.
According to Bloomberg, although the ruling covers all 20, the are two kinds of plaintiffs in this instance. The judge decided that Toyota had lost its right to arbitration with fifteen of the plaintiffs only because Toyota waited so long to pursue it. Selna concluded that since the plaintiffs had come so far in the litigation process that "They would be prejudiced if their claims were required to be submitted to arbitration now."
Selna further denied Toyota's right to arbitration with the remaining five because "the carmaker wasn't a party to the arbitration agreements between the plaintiffs and the Toyota dealers." The ruling finalizes the tentative decision Selna issued last month.
Class-action status for the plaintiffs, however, has not yet been granted. Three trials are scheduled for next year, and they will be used to set precedents for evidence, liability and theories. It is expected that a final decision on class-action status will come after the conclusion of those three cases.