Toyota Motor Corp.’s legal problems aren’t limited to the federal multidistrict litigation over unintended acceleration of its vehicles. Scores of lawsuits are working their way through state courts across the nation, and some of them could pave the road for the MDL.
The first hearing in the MDL won’t take place until later this month, but some lawyers with cases pending in various state courts already have begun deposing Toyota executives.
Many of the state court suits were filed more than a year ago and, having progressed farther in the court system, might provide some guidance on discovery issues and depositions of Toyota executives that could prove helpful in the MDL or in other cases.
“I would anticipate there are some state court cases that will possibly go to trial well in advance of the MDL,” said Donald Slavik of Habush Habush & Rottier in Milwaukee, a plaintiffs’ attorney with personal injury suits in state courts across the country. “In fact, if anything, they’re probably leading along the MDL in that a lot of the stuff that comes out of the state court cases will probably be used by the MDL.”
The sharing of resources could prove limited, however. “Sometimes, this MDL stuff can drag out and take a long time,” said R. Graham Esdale Jr., a shareholder at Montgomery, Ala.-based Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles. “If you’ve got people injured and hurt, it’s not fair to have them sit for years and years because this has turned into a big, complex litigation.”