Judge Orders Change of Venue for First Toyota Unintended Acceleration Trial

The first court trial against Toyota Motor Corporation involving the sudden acceleration of some of its vehicles has been dismissed. A federal judge has determined that the case, which was ordered to go to trial in California in February of 2013, should have been filed in a Utah court.

From 2009 through early 2011, problems with unintended acceleration forced Toyota to recall upwards of 8 million vehicles in the U.S. and led to hundreds of individual and class action lawsuits claiming damages for injuries, economic loss and deaths.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge James V. Selna ordered the dismissal of the first case set to go to trial. The case was brought by family members of two individuals who were killed when the Toyota Camry crashed into a wall in Wendover, Utah in 2010.

The driver of the vehicle, Paul Van Alfen, was killed in the accident and a passenger, Charlene Lloyd, died the following day from injuries suffered in the accident. Van Alfen’s wife and son were passengers in the vehicle and suffered injuries as well.

According to the plaintiffs, the Camry suddenly accelerated and could not be slowed despite Van Alfen’s attempts to do so by applying the foot brake.

The judge found that the federal warranty claim did not meet the $50,000 threshold for damages and that, under federal law, the plaintiffs could not include personal injury and punitive damages.

In announcing the decision of the court, Judge Selna said, “The case is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.”

Attorney for the families, Mark Robinson, said that the federal Magnuson Moss Warranty Act isn’t critical to the charges against Toyota. He also said the court’s ruling will not keep the case from being tried in federal court and added, “I am drafting a new complaint right now in which the dealer will not be named as a defendant and everything will be cured and the suit will go forward seeking punitive damages and everything else.”

However, in an email statement, Toyota spokeswoman Celeste Migliore said, “We are pleased this jurisdictional issue has been resolved and that the court agrees with Toyota that the proper forum for this case is Utah state court.”

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