Prius HVAC Odor Lawsuit

A class action lawsuit alleges a foul odor defect in Prius vehicles

Florida resident Jose Perez has filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging a foul odor defect in his 2020 Toyota Prius Prime. He states that in buying his car, he relied on Toyota’s marketing materials, which emphasized its quality, efficiency, and comfort.

However, as further alleged in his complaint, within a week after purchase, a foul odor began emanating from the air conditioning vents. At first, he thought it was just a temporary “new car smell,” but the smell instead “became moist and increasingly more-foul.” Then, his son, who has asthma and is sensitive to noxious odors, began complaining of a smell from the air conditioning vents. Perez initially thought the smell was from his son’s shoes, but he then began to notice a smell like wet socks from the vents. He claims repeated cleanings have not resolved the issue, and instead, the smell is due to a defect in the vehicle.

Perez, who seeks to bring the suit as a class action, asserts the smell comes from a defect in certain Toyota vehicles that allows moisture and microbial growth to accumulate in the HVAC system. The vehicles he alleges are affected are:

  • 2006-2020 Toyota Prius
  • 2017-2020 Toyota Prius Prime
  • 2010-2015 Toyota PHV
  • 2012-2016 Toyota Prius C
  • 2012-2017 Prius V

The lawsuit includes claims of unjust enrichment, violations of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, and breach of warranty.

Perez claims the defendants have long been aware of the alleged defect and concealed it. For instance, he cites a course manual in which the Toyota defendants allegedly admitted the HVAC system odors were a “common complaint” and caused by sources including microbes growing on the evaporator surface, including bacteria. Perez also claims Toyota has received consumer complaints about the odor issue, showing it knowingly sold vehicles it knew were affected.

The lawsuit seeks remedies including restitution, damages, and reimbursement for any repairs or replacements to remedy the alleged defect.

The case is Jose Javier Perez v. Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., et al., case number 0:21-cv-62117, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.