Judge finalizing deal in Toyota acceleration cases

TOKYO, JAPAN - APRIL 17: Vice Chairman of Toyota Mr Takeshi Uchiyamada speaks to the media at a press conference on April 17, 2013 in Tokyo, Japan. Toyota announces the sales of their Hybrid Vehicles exceeded 5 million as of March 2013. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images) Adam Pretty

SANTA ANA, Calif. A California judge said Friday that he's finalizing a settlement worth more than $1 billion in cases where motorists say the value of their Toyota vehicles plunged after recalls over claims they unexpectedly accelerated.

U.S. District Judge James Selna said he was approving the deal that was announced in December and will affect 22 million consumers.

Hundreds of lawsuits have been filed against Toyota Motor Corp. (TM) since 2009, when the Japanese automaker started receiving numerous complaints that its cars accelerated on their own, causing crashes, injuries and even deaths. More than 14 million vehicles have been recalled since the claims surfaced.

Toyota has denied the allegations, blaming driver error, faulty floor mats and stuck accelerator pedals for the problems.

Steve Berman, an attorney representing Toyota owners, has said the settlement is the largest in U.S. history involving automobile defects, estimated to be in value of up to $1.6 billion. He added that those who sold their vehicles at a loss can receive anywhere from $125 to $10,000 depending on the level of depreciation.

"This is a great settlement for consumers," Berman said. "It includes both safety fixes to make Toyota vehicles safer as well as monetary relief for owners who saw a reduction in their vehicle's value."

An e-mail message left for Toyota was not immediately returned. The company had previously said it will take a one-time, $1.1 billion pretax charge against earnings to cover the estimated costs of the settlement.

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