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Business in brief: Toyota seeking to consolidate cases

San Diego – Attorneys for Toyota Motor Corp. and people suing the Japanese automaker over sudden acceleration problems urged a federal panel Thursday to consolidate more than 200 lawsuits before a single judge, with Los Angeles federal court emerging as the favored venue.

Toyota’s lead lawyer, Cari Dawson, of Atlanta, told the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation that the company favors combining all personal injury and wrongful death cases before the California court, along with all potential class-action lawsuits filed by Toyota owners who claim safety recalls caused the vehicles to lose value.

Los Angeles is close to Toyota’s U.S. headquarters in Torrance, where many key documents and witnesses crucial for all the cases are located, Dawson noted.

“All these cases have common issues. There will be significant overlap,” Dawson told the judges. “The Central District of California is uniquely qualified.”

Associated Press

Seattle’s tallest plagued by vacancies

Seattle – The owner of the Northwest’s tallest building, the 76-story Columbia Center, missed a mortgage payment this month, providing fresh evidence of the troubles facing downtown Seattle office landlords.

Boston-based Beacon Capital Partners failed to make a scheduled payment of $1.65 million on a $380 million loan it took out when it bought the tower three years ago, according to a recent report by Wells Fargo Bank, which administers the debt.

The loan faces “imminent default due to cash flow issues,” says a note in the report.

The 1.5-million-square-foot Columbia Center appears to have been especially hard hit by the recession, which has pushed rents down and vacancies up all over downtown.

Downtown Seattle’s overall vacancy rate is at or above 20 percent, according to brokerage reports. At the Columbia Center, however, almost 600,000 square feet – nearly 40 percent of the building – is listed as “available” on online commercial real-estate database

Seattle Times

Mortgage rates stay just under 5 percent

McLean, Va. – Mortgage rates moved slightly higher but remained just below 5 percent this week, as a Federal Reserve program that has maintained rates near record lows prepares to end.

The average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage inched up to 4.99 percent this week from 4.96 percent last week, mortgage finance company Freddie Mac said Thursday.

This week, the average rate on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage was 4.34 percent, up a bit from 4.33 percent last week, according to Freddie Mac.

Associated Press

Subway adding breakfast menu

Chicago – Subway is joining the breakfast scramble in a move that the sandwich chain hopes will help add customers and sales.

After years of testing, almost all of Subway’s 23,000 U.S. restaurants will begin selling the meal April 5.

The new menu, which is already being served in some cities around the country and throughout Canada, sticks with Subway’s sandwich specialty.

Featuring customizable “omelet sandwiches,” the options include a combination of eggs or egg whites, cheese, ham, bacon, steak, sausage, peppers and onions in addition to Subway’s other sandwich toppings.

The items will be served on English muffins, flatbread or the restaurant company’s traditional sub rolls.

Associated Press


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Kim Jong Un says Koreas are on starting line of a new history

UPDATED: 9:53 p.m.

updated  With a single step over a weathered, cracked slab of concrete, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made history Friday by crossing over the world’s most heavily armed border to greet South Korean President Moon Jae-in for talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapons. Kim then invited Moon to cross briefly back into the north with him before they returned to the southern side.