California County Sues Toyota Over Acceleration Problems


Already facing a bevy of private lawsuits over recalls of its cars, Toyota Motor (TM) is now looking at a much more public battle after prosecutors in Orange County, Calif., filed the first consumer protection lawsuit against the world's largest automaker because of continuing problems with its cars.

The district attorney's office alleges Toyota knew of acceleration defects in its vehicles and chose to sell them anyway. The complaint also accuses Toyota of continuing to sell defective vehicles to Californians without fixing known problems and adequately informing consumers of the defects.

District Attorney Tony Rackauckas (pictured) at a news conference Friday said his office has the right to bring the action to bring consumer protective action on behalf of Orange County residents.

"We need to make sure that when Toyota says 'Oh, what a feeling' and 'Moving forward' that they are talking about great cars," Rackauckas said, referring to the company's slogans.

In a statement posted on its website, Toyota declined to comment on the lawsuit, which names Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., because the company hadn't yet received the complaint.

Toyota has recalled more than 6 million cars in the U.S. to repair problems. These problems are related to unintended acceleration, sticky gas pedals and floor mats that might trap accelerators, as well as braking problems in 2010 Prius hybrids and 4-cylinder Camry models.

Some 1 million vehicles have been fixed so far. But there have been more than 60 reports of sudden acceleration in cars that have been fixed under the recall.

Estimates suggest Toyota could face tens of millions of dollars in wrongful death and injury lawsuits. That's on top of the $3 billion or more it could cost the company to settle 89 class-action lawsuits that have already been brought by Toyota owners, who claim massive safety recalls have caused the value of their cars and trucks to plummet.

The number of owners claiming lost value is estimated at 6 million or more, according to an Associated Press review of cases, legal precedents and interviews with experts.