12172017Headline:

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Toyota Sued for Concealing Incriminating Evidence in Product Liability Suits

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A former company lawyer for Toyota Motor Corp., Dimitrios Biller, who managed the company’s document discovery program, sued the company in July, claiming that while he worked there, Toyota frequently withheld relevant documents in product-liability suits filed against it. According to the lawyer, US Toyota units destroyed engineering and testing evidence that would have impacted over 300 suits over SUV rollover accidents.

Toyota has denied the lawyer’s claim, but in 2005, a California court fined the company $139,000 for failing to turn over documents in a product liability case involving an allegedly defective Toyota forklift that tipped over, killing a worker who was standing on it to try to balance it.

Toyota may now face demands that all of the rollover-crash cases it won or settled over the past 10 years be reopened.

Biller, 46, said he worked from 2003 to 2008 managing records for Toyota litigation. He “suffered a complete mental and physical breakdown” battling company executives and finally resigned after objecting to Toyota’s insistence on hiding data, he said in a July 24 complaint in federal court in Los Angeles.

“Defendants are, and have, engaged in a systematic pattern and practice of discovery abuses and criminal acts against plaintiffs in litigation against the Toyota entities,” according to Biller’s complaint.

“This is the kind of publicity no company wants,” said Rebecca Lindland, an analyst at auto industry forecaster IHS Global Insight Inc. in Lexington, Massachusetts. “If the allegations are true, it would violate the trust so many people put into Toyota.” -Bloomberg

While companies concealing and destroying documents is obviously a serious threat to consumer safety, another threat is the secrecy agreements that corporations and manufacturers are allowed to enter into when they’re sued for producing faulty or dangerous products. Frequently, companies will not turn over information about their manufacturing and testing processes unless injured consumers and their attorneys agree to keep the information a secret from the public. As a result, the public is often kept in the dark about potentially dangerous products, and negligent corporations can continue to market and profit from these products.

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  1. Irv Miller says:
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    “Toyota is committed to the highest standards of product quality and safety in the vehicles we manufacture, and we maintain the highest professional and ethical standards in our legal practices as well. We strongly dispute the innacurate and misleading allegations made against Toyota’s products and conduct by Mr. Biller, a disgruntled and unstable former employee with highly questionable motives and a penchant for litigation against his employers. We are confident we have acted appropriately with respect to all product liability litigation, and we intend to defend against Mr. Biller’s false claims vigorously.

    “We fully stand behind the structural integrity of all our vehicles. Toyota vehicles are all carefully and rigorously tested, and are all engineered to meet or exceed the high standards set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which is the global leader in motor vehicle safety. Mr. Biller has grossly mischaracterized Toyota’s reporting to NHTSA. Contrary to his claims, there has never been any question of about the completeness and accuracy of the information we have provided to product safety regulators.

    Mr. Biller also exaggerates the incidence of roll-over litigation involving Toyota vehicles. In fact, with 27 million Toyota vehicles in currently operation, roll-overs are a rare event. The number of pending rollover cases represents less than [one ten-thousanth?] of the Toyotas on the road today – many times less than the number Mr. Biller claims.

    “Toyota has initiated proceedings against Mr. Biller, and, as with all pending litigation and legal matters, we are not in a position to comment further.”