Toyota Seeks to Have Unintended Acceleration Lawsuits Tossed

Toyota Seeks to Have 'Unintended Acceleration' Lawsuits Tossed
Toyota Seeks to Have 'Unintended Acceleration' Lawsuits Tossed

Toyota Motor (TM) has asked a federal judge to dismiss hundreds of lawsuits the company faces over problems with unintended acceleration in Toyota and Lexus vehicles. The world's largest automaker says such complaints are based on anecdotes, and fail to identify specific defects, Bloomberg News reported.

Toyota has been hit with more than 300 state and federal lawsuits, including proposed class actions charging economic losses, and claims of personal injuries and deaths of people in vehicles that allegedly accelerated out of control and crashed.

"Plaintiffs infer negligence and strict liability on the part of Toyota based on unsubstantiated circumstantial information," Bloomberg reported, quoting documents the company filed in federal court in Santa Ana, Calif., on Sept. 13.

The Japanese automaker has repeatedly claimed that incidences of unintended acceleration are caused by "pedal misapplication" -- simply put: drivers mistakenly stepping on the gas pedal instead of the brakes. But the automaker has also recalled some 8 million cars worldwide to repair sticky gas pedals and reduce the likelihood that accelerators could be trapped by bulky, rubber floor mats.

A hearing on Toyota's request to dismiss the lawsuits is scheduled for Nov. 19, Bloomberg said.

Toyota Sales Flat as Rest of Industry Rebounds

The recalls to remedy the accelerator problems were just the start of a series of recalls of Toyota and Lexus brand vehicles that have pushed the company's recent worldwide recall total to more than 10 million. The affected vehicles included some of the automaker's most popular nameplates, including the Camry, Corolla and Prius.

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Though many Toyota owners remain loyal, U.S. sales have been affected. After threatening to overtake General Motors as the largest supplier of vehicles to the domestic market in recent years, Toyota has consistently undersold automaker Ford Motor (F) in recent months, as the struggling auto industry seeks to recover from last year's dismal sales record.

Earlier this month, Toyota reported year-to-date sales through August were essentially flat at 1.16 million vehicles compared with 1.17 million in the first eight months of 2009, even as its competitors have shown solid growth compared with last year's depressed levels.