A federal judge dismissed a class-action lawsuit against Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. that sought compensation for damage caused by rodents chewing through insulation for engine wiring.
Filed in August 2016, the lawsuit blamed soy-based plastics used for the insulation, claiming that by not using petroleum-based materials, the insulation was more attractive to rodents. Automakers began using soy-based products more than 10 years ago in an initiative to make their products more environmentally friendly.
The suit claims the company should cover such damage under warranty.
Brian Kabateck, co-lead attorney for the plaintiffs in Los Angeles, initially filed the suit on behalf of Albert Heber of Indiana, the Detroit Free Press reported. Heber paid around $1,500 to fix the wiring in his 2012 Tundra, which was chewed through three separate times. Since Heber's suit, a number of customers have come forward with similar claims.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Guilford granted motions to dismiss the lawsuit without leave to amend. The judge also dismissed claims of fraud and consumer protections, saying the plaintiffs failed to provide "the appropriate level of specificity" with these claims.
The motion to dismiss obtained by Automotive News stated there were 21 plaintiffs in the 242-page fourth amended complaint in the lawsuit. Automotive News is a sister publication of Plastics News.
"Plaintiffs' complaint includes several consumer complaints from several different Toyota owners alleging rodent damage to several different parts of their vehicles. And this damage wasn't always connected to 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 plaintiffs' vehicles because of the soy-coated wiring," the judge's order states.
"We are gratified that, after repeated failures to allege facts that would make their defect theory plausible, the court dismissed plaintiffs' meritless claims without leave to amend," a Toyota spokesperson said in a statement sent to Automotive News.
Kabateck, however, has told the Detroit Free Press he believes "tens of thousands" of people may have been impacted by the damage.