Thanks to the “optics” (if not the reality) of the latest Toyota sudden unintended acceleration scare, the story has new legs just as Toyota and Exponent were hoping to cut them off. But as much as dramatic, cop-calms-killer-Prius headlines keep the Great Toyota Panic alive, so to does the fact that the 89-odd class-action lawsuits filed against Toyota could be worth over $3b to plaintiffs and their counsel. And that’s not counting any of the incidents in which people were actually injured or killed (which are actually relatively rare). No, that $3b+ is going to the truly deserving… and their lawyers.
According to the AP, one vein of suits in particular, which accuses Toyota of concealing safety defects and causing the resale value of its vehicles to decline, could be worth $3b on its own, according to a lawyer’s estimate of a $500 settlement being paid to 6m Toyota owners. But even that doesn’t explain what’s really driving this story: with settlement amounts projected in the billions, lawyers fees could easily reach $1b.
On March 25, a panel of federal judges will convene in San Diego to decide if may of the Toyota cases can be rolled into a single jurisdiction. If they can find judges who aren’t potential class members. As one judge scheduled to preside on that panel noted,
The court owns a 2000 Toyota Avalon SLX. In addition, the adult son of the court who has not lived in the court’s home for many years owns a 2005 Prius.