Gavel to Gavel: Skipping basics cost Toyota by Chris Paul

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This article first appeared in The Journal Record - April 7, 2010

This is not another article about the reports of sudden acceleration of some Toyota vehicles. In fact, my bet is that the alleged problem is similar to those that were identified by investigators in the mid-1980s, when unintended acceleration claims were leveled against Audi. But Toyota might not fare so well in the legal arena, and it created at least one major hurdle itself.

Documents are surfacing that will hurt Toyota in litigation. An internal PowerPoint presentation delivered in July 2009 to the president of Toyota’s North American operations listed “wins” for the company. Toyota employees were apparently proud to report that they achieved “favorable recall outcomes” and “secured safety rulemaking favorable to Toyota.” Among those rulings was a 2007 issue with Camry and Lexus ES 350 sedans for complaints that accelerator pedals were not working properly. The document notes a “negotiated an equipment recall” without a finding of a defect, meaning that instead of fixing the cars, Toyota recalled certain floor mats that it said could become stuck under the accelerator pedal.

Article authored by McAfee & Taft attorney: Chris Paul.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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