Ontario Civil

Civil Procedure

Settlement provided substantive benefits for what appeared to be very weak case

Defendant motor vehicle manufacturers issued recalls to approximately 1.3 million Canadian vehicle owners and lessors due to reports that vehicles could unintentionally accelerate. Defendants determined that problem caused by accelerator pedals being trapped by floor mats, which they addressed through consumer advisories and replacement of mats, or by problem with accelerator pedal assembly, which they addressed with adjustments. Representative plaintiff S.H. had just purchased one of defendants’ vehicles, asked for refund of purchase price and was refused. Representative plaintiff N.C. was seriously injured in motor vehicle accident allegedly caused by unintended acceleration. Representative plaintiff C.V. claimed to have suffered economic loss as result of owning vehicle subject to recall. Each plaintiff alleged problem caused by defects in electronic throttle control system not addressed by recalls. While investigations conducted by defendants’ engineers as well as various regulatory agencies could find no support for that assertion, several proposed class actions commenced both in Canada and United States. Following extensive negotiations, parties entered settlement agreement resolving all economic loss, but not personal injury or property damage, claims. Settlement bound all class members in Canada, owners or lessors of approximately 1.35 million vehicles. Those who owned or leased certain vehicles during claim period could have them fitted with brake override system free of charge. Others could receive $62.50 in lieu. Defendants would also establish customer service as well as education programs. Only 16 objections, none of whom chose to opt out of settlement, received. Plaintiffs brought motion for consent certification and approval of settlement. Motion granted. Proposed class actions met criteria for certification. There was no meaningful opposition to settlement. Settlement provided immediate, genuine and substantive benefits to class members for what appeared to be very weak case. Given high risk of litigation, settlement fair, reasonable and in best interests of class.

Hamilton v. Toyota Motor Sales, USA Inc. (Feb. 6, 2014, Ont. S.C.J., Perell J., File No. CV-10-396029CP, CV-10-401396CP, 10-47583) 237 A.C.W.S. (3d) 587.

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