A class action alleges that a defect in the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system in certain Toyota models is causing odor and safety issues.
As alleged in the complaint, the defect allows moisture and microbial growth to accumulate in the HVAC system. This buildup, in turn, causes emission of odors within the vehicle. Consumers cited in the lawsuit describe the odor as “an overpowering urine smell” or as a “a pile of rank, sweaty socks.”
The named plaintiff in the lawsuit, James Bettles, claims he experienced the odor in his 2016 Prius. At first, he thought the odor might be coming from his shoes or socks, and he washed his socks and bought new shoes. However, the odor worsened, “like a pile of party socks that had been sitting too long in a damp, warm, locker room.” He then started driving with the windows down until the smell dissipated. The dealership, he claims, repeatedly stated it could not find anything wrong with the HVAC system.
The lawsuit further alleges the defect poses a safety risk from the mold and other contaminants in the air circulated in the HVAC system.
The complaint alleges the following vehicles are affected:
- 2006-2020 Prius
- 2017-2020 Prius Prime
- 2010-2015 PHV
- 2012-2016 Prius C
- 2012-2017 Prius V
Plaintiff asserts claims including fraudulent concealment, unjust enrichment, breach of warranty, and violation of consumer laws.
He believes Toyota is aware of the defect, citing sources including Technical Service Bulletins issued by Toyota describing the odors emitted from the HVAC system, as well as a prior lawsuit filed against Toyota for the same issue.
The lawsuit seeks remedies including restitution and damages.
The case is James Bettles v. Toyota Motor Corp. et al., case number 2:21-cv-07560, in the United States District Court for the Central District of California.