A few years ago Toyota switched the wiring insulation it uses from the standard vinyl chloride-covered type to a soy-based covering. But rats, mice, and other rodents are attracted to the material. They like to chew on it according to a class-action lawsuit. Of course, that can leave owners stranded when their Toyota doesn’t work. The lawsuit was filed years ago but was dismissed in 2018. Now, it is alive again after an appeal was filed and approved.
The lawsuit was originally dismissed for numerous reasons. District Court Judge Andrew Guilford, in dismissing the case said the plaintiffs’ claims were vague. He also said that Toyota’s warranty doesn’t specifically cover wiring damage from rodents. Finally, he also said that the damage wasn’t always because of ‘soy-based parts.’”
“Considering this considerable variance it isn’t clear that Toyota could have specifically articulated any increased ‘risk’ to any particular part of the Plaintiffs’ vehicles because of the soy coated wiring,” wrote Guilford. Finally, he wrote that the plaintiffs used competing reasons as to why the rodents ate the wires in the first place.
Toyota responds to the class-action lawsuit
At the time Toyota responded that this is “entirely consistent with the idea that something other than insulation might explain these plaintiffs’ various rodent encounters.” The judge added that “the express warranty doesn’t cover that kind of defect so dismissal of the express warranty claims is appropriate.”
In all, Guilford dismissed claims in 13 states’ consumer protection statutes. He also dismissed the implied warranty of merchantability and the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act according to carcomplaints. So the plaintiffs appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit which agreed in part. It has reversed in part the original ruling.
Toyota’s main rebuttal is that rats have always been a worldwide problem. They chew on things. It is something that rodents just do and they like to chew on many different things. It argued that the plaintiffs want to blame Toyota for rats being rats, essentially. The Ninth Circuit Court said that they agree. But that it is specifically because of the soy-based wire insulation that rodent damage is more prevalent in these cars.
The class-action lawsuit supports the circumstances and “excludes Toyota’s explanation”
Its ruling went on to say that the class-action lawsuit supports the circumstances and “excludes Toyota’s explanation.” What the Ninth Circuit turned down was the lawsuit’s claim that Toyota hid customer complaints. It stated, “We are left to wonder who at Toyota was aware of the alleged defect and why Toyota did not disclose it.”
But in an interesting twist, the Ninth Circuit ruling found that the district court identified the rodents as the defect, not the wiring. Also, the alleged defect existed at the time of sale though the actual damage did not occur until after the sale. Otherwise, it meant that the damage had already been done at the time of the sale.
The plaintiffs have amended their lawsuit four different times to answer the problems that the district court flagged. So after the last amendment, the judge ruled it could no longer entertain another amendment. That is why this time the plaintiffs appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court.