March 26, 2010 12:41 PM
So, How'd the Crazy Toyota Hearing Go?
Posted by Zach Lowe
If you attended Thursday's Toyota hearing at the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation in San Diego expecting madness, it sounds as if you got what you were looking for, according to The Wall Street Journal and The National Law Journal, an Am Law Daily sibling.
More than 100 lawyers descended on the MDL panel in hopes of making the most of their allotted two minutes to convince the judges that a particular venue is the best place to hear the largest pieces of litigation against Toyota, according to the WSJ and the NLJ. At stake are millions in legal fees for the plaintiffs lawyers chosen to lead any multidistrict class action on behalf of consumers or injured plaintiffs. About 140 suits already have been filed against Toyota in the aftermath of the sudden acceleration scandal that has forced the Japanese giant to recall millions of cars. The MDL panel will decide how those cases will work--how many of them will be consolidated into one massive class action, and which judge will hear that case.
Plaintiffs lawyers given the prized speaking slots at Thursday's hearing had two minutes each to make their pitch, the NLJ says. The Wall Street Journal compared the process to speed-dating, and the plaintiffs lawyer Mark Lanier, of Vioxx litigation fame, likened the competition among attorneys for speaking time to the process of prison inmates bartering for cigarettes, the WSJ reports. Lanier has championed his firm's commitment to spending whatever it takes to win, citing its $13 million in expenditures during the Vioxx litigation, the WSJ says.
The NLJ notes a couple of interesting legal developments. First, Toyota's outside counsel at Alston & Bird (which stands to rake in huge fees for their Toyota work) want the main litigation heard in federal court in the Central District of California. Most of the cases have been filed there, and many Toyota witnesses will be coming from Japan, making California the closest U.S. destination for them, the Alston team said, according to the WSJ.
Second, a new sort of lawsuit has become popular over the last ten days or so: the firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro has filed five prospective class actions on behalf of consumers who want refunds for their Toyotas, the NLJ says. The majority of suits filed against Toyota so far have been filed on behalf of consumers alleging the resale value of their cars has plummeted since the recalls. A smaller number involve plaintiffs alleging injuries or deaths related to sudden acceleration. The panel has to decide whether to consolidate these different types of cases or separate them into various categories. Toyota appears to favor as much consolidation as possible, the WSJ says.Make a comment