Toyota said Wednesday it has reached a settlement worth more than $1 billion in a case involving hundreds of lawsuits over acceleration problems in its vehicles. The company said in a statement that the deal will resolve cases involving motorists who said the value of their vehicles was adversely affected by previous recalls stemming from sudden acceleration problems. Lawyer Steve Berman, a plaintiffs’ attorney, said the settlement is the largest settlement in U.S. history involving automobile defects. The proposed deal was filed Wednesday and must receive the approval of a federal judge. As part of the settlement, Toyota said it will offer cash payments to eligible customers who sold or turned in their leased vehicles between September 2009 and December 2010. The Japanese automaker also will launch a program to provide supplemental warranty coverage for certain vehicle components, and it will retrofit additional non-hybrid vehicle models that are subject to a floor mat recall with a free brake override system.
Russian President Vladimir Putin says he will sign a controversial bill banning Americans from adopting Russian children. Mr Putin told a televised meeting in Moscow today that he “doesn’t see any reasons” against the bill and said that he “intends to sign it” into law. The Independent reports the president said US authorities deny access to adopted Russian children and lets Americans suspected of violence towards Russian adoptees go unpunished. Critics say that the bill will deprive many Russian orphans of an opportunity to get a family. The Russian parliament has voted for the bill, which is part of a larger measure by MPs retaliating against a recently signed US law calling for sanctions against Russians deemed guilty of human rights violations.
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Wednesday denied a request to block part of the federal health care law that requires employee health-care plans to provide insurance coverage for the morning-after pill and similar emergency contraception pills. CBS News reports Hobby Lobby Stores and a sister company, Mardel Inc., sued the government, claiming the mandate violates the religious beliefs of its owners. In an opinion, Sotomayor said the stores fail to satisfy the demanding legal standard for blocking the requirement on an emergency basis. She said the companies may continue their challenge to the regulations in the lower courts. Company officials say they must decide whether to violate their faith or face a daily $1.3 million fine beginning Jan. 1 if they ignore the law. Attorneys for the government have said the drugs do not cause abortions and that the U.S. has a compelling interest in mandating insurance coverage for them.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne wants to train and arm one administrator or teacher at Arizona schools that don’t already have police officers on campus as a way to defend against school shootings and massacres like the horrific events in Newtown, Conn. earlier this month. The Phoenix Business Journal reports Horne, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu and other Arizona police officials proposed the idea Dec. 26. They said the training would be free and the designated school official could keep the gun locked up at the school and also be trained on emergency responses. There have been calls for new federal gun controls from Democrats after the Newtown and other 2012 mass shootings in Wisconsin, Oregon and Colorado. The National Rifle Association wants to see armed guards at schools and this Horne proposal comes out of that type of proposals.
Just weeks after Coloradoans approved a sweeping, marijuana-legalization measure that lets some residents possess up to an ounce, one county is opting out of the law’s section that allows commercial cultivation and sale of pot. The Wall Street Journal reports officials in Douglas County approved an ordinance last week that will prohibit companies from growing cannabis, as well as making the plant into products and selling it in stores. It goes into effect Thursday. That is more than six months before the state is scheduled to adopt regulations to implement the new marijuana law, and more than a year before it is required to issue the first commercial license. The law’s personal-consumption provisions for people 21 or older went into effect earlier this month.