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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, March 5, 2010

Honolulu man sues Toyota over defects

 •  Toyota keeps tight lid on crash data

BY Greg Wiles
Advertiser Staff Writer

Toyota Motor Corp.'s legal woes have been extended to Honolulu with the filing of a class-action lawsuit by the owner of a 2010 Toyota Corolla.

A lawsuit filed this week by Honolulu resident Edward Funasaki seeks to establish class action status for Hawai'i residents who own or lease a Toyota that has been recalled. The lawsuit alleges people relied on Toyota's claims that their vehicles were safe and that the car company was deceptive and misleading in selling its cars.

The lawsuit comes in the wake of a recall of several Toyota models for problems with sudden acceleration, which also is blamed for dozens of fatal car crashes in the United States. The carmaker's reputation has taken a drubbing because of safety regulators comments, the recalls and top executives being forced to testify before Congress.

Toyota also has found itself in court, with at least 94 class-action lawsuits nationally, with another 27 individuals suing the company over the acceleration problem.

The lawsuit here was filed for Funasaki by Kailua, Kona Attorney Philip Green, who said he believes the case is the first such filing in Hawai'i. Green would not give more comment on the complaint, saying he was working with a Colorado law firm on the case.

That firm, Franklin D. Azar & Associates, PC of Aurora, Colorado, wasn't available for comment late yesterday. Azar is a firm that concentrates on personal injury cases and is known in Colorado for running television commercials touting settlements obtained by Frank "The Strong Arm" Azar.

Funasaki's lawsuit also names Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. as a defendant and notes research shows at least 19 deaths and 341 injuries have involved Toyota vehicles suddenly accelerating.

Funasaki claims he relied on Toyota's safety claims and alleged he overpaid for his car because it is among those recalled because of the defective accelerator pedals.

The lawsuit does not say that Funasaki suffered physical injuries or experienced the problem.

Toyota and its Scion brand have been top selling brands in Hawai'i in the past two years, accounting for more than a quarter of the new cars and light trucks sold in the state.

Funasaki "is an owner of a 2010 Toyota Corolla, whose Toyota vehicle may no longer be safe to operate due to a potential sudden acceleration problem caused by a defective accelerator pedal," the lawsuit alleges.

Toyota has recalled more than than 8 million vehicles worldwide to fix floor mats and sticky accelerator pedals.

Lawyers in several of the class action lawsuits could be consolidated in federal courts in California, Louisiana or Kentucky.

A hearing on combining the lawsuits in a multijurisdictional litigation will be heard in federal court in San Diego on March 25.

Bloomberg News Service contributed to this report.