Toyota Motor Corporation will put to bed claims from US customers that their vehicles’ value decreased as a result of the 2009 and 2010 recalls for unintended acceleration issues, with a US$1.63 billion ($1.8 billion) settlement being approved.
Bloomberg reports US District Judge James V Selna finally signed off on the settlement, valued by plaintiff lawyers at US$1.63 billion, after giving preliminary approval in December last year. Selna delayed his final decision until he saw documentation on how the money was to be distributed to the claimants.
At the California hearing, Selna said he reaffirmed his conclusion that the settlement was fair, adequate and reasonable.
“I find this settlement to be extraordinary because every single dollar in the cash fund will go to claimants,” he said.
John P Hooper, a lawyer representing the car maker, said Toyota was confident it would have won at trial and had agreed to settle only because it was “trying to find a resolution that would be of value to Toyota customers and put this litigation behind [it]”.
“This settlement is focused on getting the maximum amount to our customers,” Hooper said.
An attorney representing the plaintiffs, Steve Berman, said individuals would receive payments ranging from US$9.74 to US$10,000 ($10.52 to $10,800), depending on the model owned, rented or leased.
“Those people who submitted claims are getting 100 per cent of their claims in this settlement,” Berman said.
According to the report, the settlement includes US$757 million ($818 million) in cash and US$875 million ($945 million) in non-monetary benefits that include no-cost installations of brake-override systems on eligible vehicles.
While addressing part of the fallout of the unintended acceleration issues, the settlement does not impact the personal-injury and wrongful-death lawsuits facing the Japanese manufacturer.
Industry journal Automotive News reports jury selection has begun for a Los Angeles trial scheduled for this month in which the widower and son of 66-year-old Noriko Uno contend unintended acceleration and the lack of a brake-override system resulted in her death. Uno died in August 2009 after her 2006 Toyota Camry collided with a telephone pole and a tree at 161km/h.
In January this year, Toyota settled a case – for an undisclosed amount – relating to the death of two people who died when their 2008 Toyota Camry collided with a rock wall.
No Toyota vehicles sold in Australia were affected by 2009 and 2010 unintended acceleration recalls.