LOS ANGELES (AP) — With a proposed payout of more than $1 billion, one major chapter of a nearly four-year legal saga that left Toyota Motor Corp. fighting hundreds of lawsuits and struggling with a tarnished image has ended, though another remains.
The settlement — unprecedented in its size according to a plaintiff's attorney — brings an end to claims from owners who said the value of their vehicles plunged after recalls over sudden and unintended acceleration.
Lawsuits claiming that the defects caused injury or death remain, with the first trial beginning in February unless another major deal comes first.
Steve Berman, a lawyer representing Toyota owners, said the settlement is the largest in U.S. history involving automobile defects.
"We kept fighting and fighting and we secured what we think was a good settlement given the risks of this litigation," Berman told The Associated Press.
The courtroom claims began with a highway tragedy. A California Highway Patrol officer and three of his family members were killed in suburban San Diego in 2009 after their car, a Toyota-built Lexus, reached speeds of more than 120 mph, hit an SUV, launched off an embankment, rolled several times and burst into flames.
Investigators determined that a wrong-size floor mat trapped the accelerator and caused the crash.