The Toyota acceleration problem has gotten a lot of press play. Most recent is yesterday’s story about a Prius that went berserk on a California interstate. Looks like the engineering staff at Toyota doesn’t yet have this thing corralled.
One of the interesting things about the work I do representing consumers is that I’ve learned that juries are often fairly forgiving of institutions and mistakes. Here is what I mean. In court when businesses, hospitals, or government agencies admit to mistakes, my experience is that jurors are very understanding.
On the surface, it appears that Toyota is taking this, “mistakes were made” approach to defending the sudden acceleration cases. But underneath is a story that so far has not gotten much play.
Apparently, Toyota has known for years about the problems with its cars. Not a big surprise.
But much worse, Toyota may have hidden the defects and may have violated all sorts of court rules and orders by hiding evidence and stonewalling in cases. At least that is what one of Toyota’s former lawyers claims.
If this is true and if the story gets traction, Toyota is in major trouble. Apart from sales issues, their liabilities will go through the roof when–not if–these Book of Knowledge documents are ordered produced. Seems like their only hope is to completely discredit their former counsel. I suppose it’s possible that everything he says in the linked CNN interview is fiction. But I doubt it.
The linked story talks about Toyota’s trade secrets. Toyota thinks it doesn’t have to disclose those in injury cases. Toyota is wrong.
But as long as we’re on the subject, here is a trade secret from a consumer-side lawyer who toils in the trenches. Representing an injured consumer in a design defect case is tough. It’s hard to communicate the technical parts of the case. Leading the jury through the thicket of complexity to a just result for the injured consumer is a major challenge. On the other hand, when that complicated design defect case becomes a case about hidden or destroyed evidence, the business is very likely in big trouble should the business choose to go to trial.