Orange County DA Announces Consumer Protection Settlement Over Unintended Acceleration

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Orange County District Attorney Tony Rauckauckas

SANTA ANA — Throughout 2009 and 2010, the Toyota Motor Corporation issued recalls affecting nearly 6 million vehicles due to the risk of unintended acceleration caused by floor mat and “sticky” gas pedal issues.

Orange County District Attorney (OCDA) Tony Rackauckas on April 5 announced a multi-million-dollar settlement with Toyota and its related North American entities over allegations the company concealed safety issues related to unintended acceleration in violation of California consumer protection laws.

Toyota will pay $16 million to settle consumer protection claims brought by the OCDA.

“The possibility of experiencing an unintended acceleration event during Toyota’s recall crisis clearly scared many consumers,” Rackauckas said. “This settlement is an important step in holding Toyota accountable for the safety and security of their customers.”

The settlement provides that $8 million will be designated to be used by the Orange County Gang Reduction Intervention Partnership (OC GRIP), a partnership with the District Attorney’s Office, Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Orange County city police departments, the Department of Education, and several private companies and churches, including the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Chivas USA, Saddleback Church, Ford Motor Company, Ralph’s grocery stores and others.

“OC GRIP works very effectively with kids, beginning in the fourth and fifth grades, to keep kids out of gangs,” Rackauckas said.  “We use teamwork and incentives with kids who are at risk of becoming gang members to keep them in school, give them incentives and steer them away from the gang lifestyle. This has been a growing effort that is proving to help keep our community safe and create an environment of education and productivity for the good of the kids as well. This settlement with Toyota will benefit public safety by adding substantial momentum to this great movement.”

Of the $16 million, $4 million of the settlement will be paid to the OCDA to pay the costs and fees, including those of outside counsel who assisted the OCDA, and the remainder will be paid to the OCDA to fight economic crime.

“Toyota has a major presence in Orange County, where unintended acceleration events also occurred,” Rackauckas stated. “Thus, as a law enforcement official, I had my office bring this action to ensure that Toyota is transparent about safety issues and fully complies with the law in the future.”

In agreeing to the settlement, the OCDA also considered the portions of the proposed settlement of the economic loss class actions in In re: Toyota Motor Corp. Unintended Acceleration Marketing, Sales Practices, and Products Liability Litigation, Case No. 8:1OML2151 JVS (FMOx) (C.D. Cal.) that include the installation of brake override systems on eligible vehicles, as well as a customer support program by which Toyota provides prospective coverage for certain repairs to identified vehicle components to Toyota vehicle owners or lessees, including those of Orange County and the State of California. 

The OCDA believes that these elements will enhance safety in the vehicles and are in the best interest of Toyota vehicle owners and lessees in Orange County and the State of California.

In response, Christopher P. Reynolds, group vice president and general counsel, Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc., and chief legal officer, Toyota Motor North America, said:

“As we continue to turn the page on legacy legal issues related to our past recalls, we are pleased to have resolved these allegations in a way that supports the communities where our customers live and work. Having addressed floor mat and ‘sticky pedal’ issues with effective and durable solutions, we are gratified that Toyota vehicles are once again widely recognized as among the safest and most reliable on the road. We remain focused on continuously enhancing our quality assurance operations and strengthening our ability to meet customer expectations, and we are grateful for their continued support.”

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