Toyota Woes Could Include Criminal ChargesMar 11, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP
Toyota has come under a lot of heat because of its recent recalls for unintended acceleration. But more trouble could be on the horizon, because Toyota could end up facing criminal charges for the way it handled the speed control issues.
Since last fall, Toyota has recalled more than 8 million vehicles worldwide for problems involving sudden acceleration. Toyota has blamed the speed control issues on defective floor mats and faulty accelerator pedals, but some experts suspect that problems with the vehicles’ electronic throttle control system could really be behind the problems. Such suspicions have increased recently, as dozens of Toyota owners whose vehicles underwent recall repairs have recently complained that their vehicles are still experiencing problems with unintended acceleration.
As we’ve reported previously, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating the timeliness of the recent Toyota recalls, and the company could face civil penalties if the agency finds something was askew. But according to USA Today, the automaker was also served with a subpoena last month by a New York grand jury looking into sudden acceleration problems, as well as problems with brakes on Prius and Lexus hybrids. The grand jury investigation is a signal that a criminal probe is underway, USA Today said.
According to USA Today, a federal law adopted in 2000 called the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act, criminal charges are possible. According to USA Today, TREAD was enacted in response to rollover recalls involving Ford Explorers and Firestone tires. It makes individuals who intentionally mislead federal regulators about safety defects subject to possible criminal fines and even prison.