Tomorrow in a San Diego courtroom, dozens of lawyers leading class action lawsuits against Toyota will jockey to become one of the lead attorney's in a national class action case against the auto maker. It will be a legal zoo. Lawyers lining up to show they have the expertise and the best position to lead what could be a whopper of a case. There are more than 100 class action suits filed against Toyota, but the most interesting involves those who believe Toyota should pay them to take back a vehicle they now fear driving.
Never mind that they may not have experienced any problems with unintended acceleration, it is the fear of what could happen that upsets these people. Never mind that they may have had their car repaired and it's been deemed "safe", it is the fear of what could happen that weighs on these people. In essence, they want Toyota to pay them for their worries.
I talked with an attorney leading one of these cases and he says Toyota owners have a legitimate complaint. Attorney Steve Berman told me, "Toyota is the company that caused the problem, Toyota is causing them (owners of Toyota vehicles) to be fearful of driving their cars. We think the law allows them to revoke the acceptance of the car, give it back to Toyota with some discount that Toyota would get for the time they used the car." It's a fair argument. But where do you draw the line? Where do you say, "Ok, Toyota owes this person a certain amount, and another person a different amount." How do you value fear?
Let's be clear, I'm not defending Toyota, nor am I saying everyone in these class action suits will have a complaint I consider valid. After all, I've received checks for class action suits I didn't even realize I was part of. And when I later looked into what the case was about, I got a good chuckle. What's happening with Toyota is no laughing matter, especially for those involved in accidents they blame on unintended acceleration. But ultimately, the question with many of these class action suits will be whether or not Toyota should pay because some Toyota owners say they are fearful to drive their vehicles.
Let me know what you think.
Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com