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Toyota Legal Tactics Questioned

Here’s the latest roundup of Toyota stories from the American Association of Justice press release:

The AP (4/12) reports Toyota has “routinely engaged in questionable, evasive and deceptive legal tactics when sued, frequently claiming it does not have information it is required to turn over and sometimes even ignoring court orders to produce key documents, an Associated Press investigation shows.” In a “review of lawsuits filed around the country involving a wide range of complaints – not just the sudden acceleration problems that have led to millions of Toyotas being recalled – the automaker has hidden the existence of tests that would be harmful to its legal position and claimed key material was difficult to get at its headquarters in Japan.” The company has also “withheld potentially damaging documents and refused to release data stored electronically in its vehicles.”

Toyota lawsuits to be consolidated in California court. Bloomberg News (4/10, Fisk) reports lawsuits against Toyota Motor Corp. “related to sudden acceleration will be consolidated in a federal court in Santa Ana, California, a panel of judges said.” Toyota “is facing at least 177 consumer and shareholder lawsuits seeking class-action status and at least 57 individual suits claiming personal injuries or deaths caused by sudden acceleration incidents. All the class actions and most of the individual suits were filed after September, when Toyota began the first of several recalls related to inadvertent acceleration.”

State Farm seeks repayment from Toyota on unintended acceleration claims. USA Today (4/12, Carty) reports, “Armed with reports of accidents for which they’ve already paid claims, State Farm insurance has asked Toyota to repay them for any crashes related to unintended acceleration by its vehicles.” Other companies “are expected to follow and demands for repayment of claims – called ‘subrogation’ in the insurance business – could end up costing Toyota from $20 million to $30 million, says Mark Bunim, an attorney with Closed Case, a mediation firm.” If Toyota “doesn’t end up paying for accidents insurers link to sudden acceleration, the cost could trickle down to consumers, who could end up paying higher insurance rates for Toyota vehicles.”

New details of Toyota’s recall reluctance noted. The New York Times (4/12, Maynard) reports on the revelations last week about internal debates within Toyota about whether to recall vehicles with sticky accelerators, noting that Federal regulators are pointing to “deliberate efforts by company officials to keep information about possible defects from the government.” The piece notes that Secretary LaHood “zeroed in on the months between late September and mid-January for particular criticism” when announcing that DOT is seeking a record $16.4 million fine. “New details about the company’s actions – based on government timelines, 70,000 pages of Toyota documents and interviews – show the degree to which regulators say the company stalled in fulfilling its recall pledges and treated safety concerns in the United States differently from those in Europe and Canada.”

NYTimes says in wake of Toyota accelerator problem, Congress should increase NHTSA fine cap. The New York Times (4/11, WK9) reports American regulators “levied the maximum possible fine – $16.4 million – on Toyota after it failed, for months, to report problems with accelerator pedals in some of its cars.” But that is a “paltry sum for the world’s No. 1 automaker and one more reminder that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration needs more powerful tools – and more energy.” Congress “can start by raising the cap on the N.H.T.S.A.’s fines,” and the agency “also needs money to hire more investigators.”

Bob Kraft

I am a Dallas, Texas lawyer who has had the privilege of helping thousands of clients since 1971 in the areas of Personal Injury law and Social Security Disability.

About This Blog

The title of this blog reflects my attitude toward those government agencies and insurance companies that routinely mistreat injured or disabled people. As a Dallas, Texas lawyer, I've spent more than 45 years trying to help those poor folk, and I have been frustrated daily by the actions of the people on the other side of their claims. (Sorry if I offended you...)

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