Law firm representing owners of vehicles suffering from "dangerous defect" in nationwide lawsuit
Owners of Toyota vehicles today hit the automaker with a class-action lawsuit regarding a brake defect affecting hundreds of thousands of its Avalon, Camry and Prius models, according to attorneys at Hagens Berman.
According to the lawsuit filed Apr. 3, 2020 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, owners of the affected vehicles report that the defect causes the vehicle's braking system to intermittently fail, leading to high risk of crash, injury and potential fatality.
The defect can manifest even in new, or almost new vehicles, and drivers report the instance of the defect especially when attempting to brake while traversing bumpy or slick surfaces such as potholes, metal sheets or ice, but reports to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also document the defect in many other conditions, leading to crashes and injuries.
"Hundreds of thousands of Toyota vehicles are susceptible to this dangerous defect, and so far Toyota has refused to act responsibly to save lives and prevent injuries," said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman and attorney representing Toyota owners in the class action. "Crashes are happening because of this brake defect, and people are reporting injuries. Every day Toyota waits to respond is a day someone could suffer a fatality."
The lawsuit alleges the defect in the brake systems in the affected vehicles stems from the brake booster pump assembly, which "can—and with unreasonably frequency does—fail to operate as necessary to ensure the brakes engage when the brake pedal is depressed," according to the filed complaint.
Hagens Berman also represented Toyota owners against the automaker in what was then the largest automotive class action suit in history. The lawsuit pertained to a defect in Toyota models causing sudden unintended acceleration and settled for $1.6 billion.
"This isn’t the first time we have caught Toyota in the crosshairs of a major safety defect," Berman added. "As we did in the sudden unintended acceleration case, we intend to hold Toyota accountable for this serious hazard to Toyota owners and others on the road."
What Toyota Owners Are Saying
Reports to NHTSA concerning the affected models detail the defect, which owners report essentially renders their brakes inoperative under normal driving conditions. NHTSA reports from owners have included the following:
- "My brakes consistently lock and the car lunges forward...This caused a crash when the car was only a couple years old when the brakes failed to stop the vehicle and it lunged forward into the back of a car. This is extremely dangerous and I've seen this comment often with this vehicle. I don't understand why Toyota has not addressed this issue."
- "Driving vehicle down highway, tapped brakes but brakes did not work, all the lights on my dash lit up. I lost traction in brakes causing vehicle to lose control."
- "...I had no control over the car or the speed. This is [sic] major safety hazard since someone could have been seriously injured with losing control of the brake and acceleration."
- "...scared daily by the unsafe driving conditions due to the car's tendency to lurch forward while braking over bumpy ground or potholes..."
Despite the mounting number of reported instances of the defect manifesting, attorneys say Toyota has chosen to respond to this potentially life-threatening defect in a piecemeal and hazardous manner. "Toyota refuses to repair or replace such defective systems until and unless unsuspecting drivers of Affected Vehicles actually experience a brake failure—which could obviously result in injuries or even deaths that could otherwise be avoided," the suit reads.
Similarly, the suit’s named plaintiff experienced the braking defect during the entire ownership period for her Prius. If she attempted to slow down or stop when the car happened to be traveling over a surface that was not smooth, upon depressing the brake pedal the car would lurch, or surge forward before stopping. Upon contacting her local Toyota dealership, the plaintiff was told by service technicians that absent a recall notice, they would not inspect the vehicle without charge and they had no knowledge of any defect concerning the brakes in her vehicle.
"Consumers buy Toyota cars because they’re sold as reliable, safe cars, and anyone would expect the brakes in a car to function when they buy it," Berman said.
The lawsuit against Toyota seeks both monetary reimbursement for those who purchased or leased an affected Avalon, Camry or Prius, and also seeks action from the court barring Toyota from continuing to sell vehicles with the defective braking system.
Find out more about the class-action lawsuit against Toyota.
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is a consumer-rights class-action law firm with nine offices across the country. The firm’s tenacious drive for plaintiffs’ rights has earned it numerous national accolades, awards and titles of "Most Feared Plaintiff’s Firm," and MVPs and Trailblazers of class-action law. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at www.hbsslaw.com. Follow the firm for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.