Toyota Rollover Lawsuits Could be Reopened Due to Cover-up AllegationsSep 3, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP
A former lawyer for Toyota has accused the automaker of concealing important information about rollover accidents that resulted in deaths and injuries. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, the accusations could ultimately result in hundreds of rollover accident lawsuits against Toyota being reopened.
According to the Times, the stunning allegations were made in a federal lawsuit filed by Dimitrios P. Biller, a former managing counsel for Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. His job involved defending the company in lawsuits filed by victims of injured in rollover accidents involving Toyota sport utility vehicles and trucks. Biller claims the automaker forced him to resign in 2007. The company gave him a $3.2 million severance payment, the Times said.
Biller's lawsuits claims Toyota illegally withheld e-mails and other computer-stored information from victims' attorneys, the Times said. It also alleges that the automaker destroyed data in over 300 accidents that Biller claims proves vehicle roofs were substandard. According to the Times, lawsuits filed by the victims of these accidents blamed poor roof design for injuries and deaths.
In addition, Biller's lawsuit claims the company hid information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regarding its compliance with roof safety regulations.
According to a CBS News report, Biller's lawsuit asserts that he repeatedly complained to about these practices. The stress caused him to suffer a mental breakdown, resulting in his forced resignation in 2007, the lawsuit claims.
According to a USA Today report, some consumer groups are predicting serious consequences for Toyota if Biller's claims are proven. "If the allegations are correct that Toyota destroyed or withheld (electronic) data, it has the potential to reopen hundreds of Toyota rollover cases," Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, told USA Today.
Victims' lawyers are already gearing up for that fight. “The petition alleges conduct by Toyota that would cause every case ever resolved by Toyota in the past 10 years to be re-opened,” one Texas attorney who represented plaintiffs in Toyota rollover lawsuits, told Bloomberg.com. “We intend to ask the courts to re-open these lawsuits.”