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O.C. prosecutor files suit against Toyota

March 12, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Orange County consumers against automaker Toyota.This is the first consumer protection lawsuit against Toyota in the country. The automaker has had a string of problems with accelerators on some of their vehicles. At least 50 people have died over alleged accelerator problems in Toyota vehicles since 2000.

Rackauckas said he is concerned that Orange County consumers may be buying Toyotas without all the necessary information. The 18-page complaint accuses the company of placing drivers in danger by knowingly selling defective vehicles and hiding defects from consumers intentionally.

"Toyota knowingly sold cars and trucks with defects that caused Toyotas to accelerate suddenly and uncontrollably," Rackauckas said.

Rackauckas said there could be millions of violations against Toyota and he plans to seek a $2500 civil penalty per violation.

Several government agencies have already launched investigations against Toyota.

"The court system is going to be a lot more effective and efficient in getting to the bottom of this problem," said Rackauckas. "We are able to bring subpoenas and to do depositions to require the information to come forward from Toyota."

Some people said they wonder if the lawsuit is simply a political gesture.

"It seems like it's an opportunity to join the few people that are against Toyota," said Carrie Wilson, who owns a Toyota and protested quietly while Rackauskas announced the lawsuit.

A spokesman from Toyota said the company has not yet received the lawsuit and has no further comment on the pending litigation.

At least 89 class-action lawsuits have been filed against Toyota.