April 9, 2010 / 7:02 PM / 9 years ago

U.S. panel consolidates Toyota cases in LA court

* First step in dealing with flood of litigation

* Judge was Bush appointee

LOS ANGELES, April 9 (Reuters) - A panel of federal judges on Friday consolidated dozens of lawsuits against Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) over cars that have raced out of control, assigning them to a single federal judge in Los Angeles.

The decision is another step in the U.S. legal system in dealing with the torrent of personal injury claims, consumer-fraud class actions and other civil litigation in federal courts stemming from unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles.

The cases were assigned to U.S. District Judge James Selna, who was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush in 2003.

Toyota faces a potential liability estimated by some lawyers at more than $10 billion as it struggles to contain an auto safety crisis that has tarnished its once-sterling public image and badly dented its sales.

Complaints of runaway vehicles and other safety issues have led to the recall of more than 8.5 million Toyota vehicles worldwide, most for repairs of ill-fitting floor mats and sticking gas pedals the automaker blames for surging engines. (Reporting by Dan Whitcomb, Editing by Edwin Chan, Leslie Gevirtz)

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