LOS ANGELES – Toyota Motor Corp. has settled what was to be the first in a group of hundreds of pending wrongful death and injury lawsuits involving sudden, unintended acceleration by Toyota vehicles, a company spokesman said Thursday.
Toyota reached the agreement in the case brought by the family of Paul Van Alfen and Charlene Jones Lloyd, spokeswoman Celeste Migliore said. They were killed when their Toyota Camry slammed into a wall in Utah in 2010.
Migliore would not disclose the financial terms, and plaintiffs’ attorney Robert Krause did not immediately reply to a phone message.
The remaining lawsuits are not affected by the settlement, Migliore said.
Last month, Toyota agreed to a settlement worth more than $1 billion to resolve hundreds of lawsuits claiming economic losses Toyota owners suffered when the Japanese automaker recalled millions of vehicles. Hundreds more lawsuits involving wrongful death and injury remained.
2012 strong for construction
WASHINGTON – U.S. builders started work on homes in December at the fastest pace in 4 1/2 years and finished 2012 as their best year for residential construction since the early stages of the housing crisis.
The Commerce Department said Thursday that builders broke ground on houses and apartments last month at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 954,000. That’s 12.1 percent higher than November’s annual rate and nearly double the recession low reached in April 2009.
Construction increased last month for both single-family homes and apartments. And the pace in which builders requested permits to start more homes ticked up to a 4 1/2-year high.
For the year, builders started work on 780,000 homes. That’s still roughly half of the annual number of starts consistent with healthier markets. But it is an increase of 28.1 percent from 2011.
Jobless claims at 5-year low
WASHINGTON – The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid plummeted to a five-year low last week, a hopeful sign the job market may be improving. But much of the decline reflects seasonal volatility in the data.
Weekly unemployment benefit applications fell 37,000 to a seasonally adjusted 335,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. That’s the lowest level since January 2008, just after the recession began.
The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell to 359,250.
The applications data can be uneven in January. Job cuts typically spike in the second week of the month as retailers, restaurants and other companies lay off temporary workers hired for the winter holidays.
The department seasonally adjusts the numbers to account for such trends, but the data can still be choppy.
GM bolstering U.S. factories
DETROIT – General Motors said it will invest $1.5 billion in its North American factories this year.
North American President Mark Reuss announced the figure in a speech Wednesday night but gave no details. The company said specific plants and job numbers will come later.
Reuss said the investment is in addition to the $10.2 billion GM already has spent on its factories since July 2009. The company has added about 2,000 U.S. jobs since then.