Did Judge in Santa Ana Toss the Smoking Gun in Federal Defect Case Against Toyota?
You can't blame U.S. District Judge James Selna for wanting an end to the long, complicated unintended acceleration class-action litigation against Toyota, the Japanese automaker that landed in the federal courthouse in Santa Ana due to its U.S. headquarters being in Torrance. Selna, who last month agreed with Toyota to sign off on a $1.8 billion settlement with consumer plaintiffs, this week took the automaker's side again by striking recent evidence from a plaintiff expert who claims to have identified a software bug responsible for unintended acceleration defects in Toyota vehicles.
Selna found the expert's report came four months after a deadline for such evidence to be presented and following the close of expert discovery in the case, reports the National Law Journal.
"The umbrella term 'software defects' cannot be used to inject into the litigation an entirely new defect at this late date," the judge wrote. "The record seems clear that Plaintiffs' software experts continued to review source code after their deadlines and found additional evidence to formulate new opinions. Although these strengthen Plaintiffs' litigation position, that alone does not justify denying the Motion to Strike."
"We are pleased that the Court agreed that plaintiff's counsel cannot introduce new and untested defect theories at this late date, nearly a month after the close of expert discovery," a Toyota spokesperson writes in a statement to the Journal. "After nearly three years of litigating this case, plaintiff's experts still have no viable software defect theory and have never replicated unintended acceleration in a Toyota vehicle."
Many of those across the country who are parties in this and other cases against Toyota had surmised some sort of computer error caused unintended acceleration/braking that led to accidents and even deaths.
The automaker's experts blamed driver error and later floor mats. So if the evidence Selna tossed is the smoking gun plaintiffs had been looking for, they are apparently S.O.L. now.