Thousands of Australian drivers could be entitled to extensive damages as a class action against Toyota takes another step forward.
More than 260,000 Toyota drivers are being asked to sign up as of Monday for a potential $2 billion lawsuit against the manufacturer.
It follows a federal court ruling in April that certain versions of the Toyota HiLux, Prado, and Fortuner had defective particulate filters. The manufacturer could pay thousands of damages to Australian customers who bought the affected vehicles.
Gilbert and Tobin, the law firm handling the class action, has begun contacting drivers across Australia who have purchased diesel models of the vehicles between October 2015 and April 2020.
Toyota has announced plans to challenge the ruling — and the massive likely bill. But if the appeal fails, the landmark lawsuit will likely deliver the largest damages in Australian corporate history.
The defect caused the vehicles to spread foul-smelling white smoke and meant owners had to pay for excessive inspections, maintenance, and repairs.
In federal court in April, Judge Michael Lee found that 264,170 vehicles with the defect were sold in Australia. Each was worth 17.5 percent less than what the average customer paid.
“The conduct in marketing the vehicles as of acceptable quality was misleading,” Justice Lee wrote.
At the time, lead applicant Ken Williams said he was “thrilled” with the verdict. Mr. Williams bought a Prado, who spent much of its time off the road for repairs.
“Hundreds of thousands of ordinary Australian consumers who bought these vehicles are… [now] entitled to compensation for the losses they have suffered as a result,” he said.
“I hope today’s judgment offers some comfort to people who, like me, have faced the disappointment, inconvenience, and added expense of owning these vehicles.”
Matt Mackenzie, the partner of Gilbert and Tobin, said anyone who bought one of the affected vehicles could register for compensation — and had to be registered to be eligible for a payout.
“Anyone who has purchased one of those vehicles…will receive a court-approved notice, either by email, text or post, stating: ‘There has been a judgment, you may be entitled to compensation, but if you wish to claim compensation, you must come forward and register your interest,” said Mr. Mackenzie.
Gilbert and Tobin have set up a website to verify the details of each vehicle and identify affected customers. Details will be checked with the information provided by Toyota.
“That will help us determine which customers are eligible for compensation and, if so, how much compensation,” said Mr. Mackenzie.
If each customer claimed the full amount — $7474.59 — back, Toyota’s bill could be about $2 billion.
There is no cost to engage customers to register interest in the class action. If the lawsuit succeeds, part of the damages can be spent on legal expenses.