In July, a California federal judge approved a discovery plan to share information between the two sides in the litigation over alleged defects in Toyota vehicles.
U.S. District Judge James Selna signed an order giving lawyers on both sides 100 days to carry out the discovery process. This means attorneys for the hundreds of plaintiffs and lawyers for Toyota have just over three months to exchange documents and take depositions.
Discovery includes a variety of means of obtaining information, including written questions called "interrogatories," questioning under oath (depositions), and written requests for documents and other items (computer files, medical exams, product inspection and testing, etc.) known as "requests to produce."
According to the Associated Press, Judge Selna said the 100-day window provides enough time for all the discovery tasks to be finished.
Toyota's Unintended Acceleration Recall
Toyota recalled millions of vehicles because of reported problems with acceleration, braking and electronics systems in several models. The Japanese auto giant disputes the charges, and has in the past blamed sticking floor mats and driver error for widely publicized crashes, injuries and deaths in its vehicles.
All of the federal cases have been merged in Selna's court. The depositions and evidence from Toyota in the consolidated federal case will be distributed to product liability attorneys, judges and plaintiffs in state cases around the country. This process will eliminate the need to have witnesses testify over and over again in courts across the nation.
Lawyers for both sides hope to find information to use to sway the federal judge. Plaintiffs' attorneys will make the case that Toyota knew of design and manufacturing flaws in its vehicles and sold unsafe products regardless. Those attorneys are asking to take testimony from witnesses in nearly two dozen categories relating to the design and testing of the carmaker's electronic throttle system and braking system. They're also asking for data from so-called "black boxes" in the cars; recorders that store information about the car collected in the seconds before airbags deploy.
Toyota's lawyers will be getting fact sheets about plaintiffs for review.
The next scheduled court date is Sept. 20, 2010.