According to a recent ABC News report, court documents from a class-action lawsuit against that has been filed against Toyota claim that the company is in possession of documents that show that the automaker documented confirmed cases of sudden acceleration without driver error as many as 7 years ago. Other alleged company documents show that Toyota has been able to recreate instances of sudden acceleration, again without driver error, within the last year.
The documents are referred to in a revised complaint that has been filed against Toyota in U.S. District Court for Southern California. In the suit, forty Toyota owners claim that sudden acceleration problems has caused them financial harm by reducing the resale value of their cars. The suit claims that, “Toyota failed to disclose that its own technicians often replicated sudden acceleration events without driver error.”
In a 2003 document quoted in the complaint, a technician reported a sudden acceleration incident where he found a “mis-synchronism between engine speed and throttle position movement.” The technician requested immediate action to correct the dangerous problem. Another document, from 2005, involved a Toyota dealership report that states that a dealer verified two separate acceleration incidents with a Toyota Sequoia. A 2003 report described what was called a “surge event,” despite no trouble code on a scan tool. According to consumer safety experts, many of the sudden acceleration problems could be resulting from a defect in Toyota’s electronic throttle control systems. The company has repeatedly denied that the vehicles have electronic problems.
This lawsuit was filed amidst reports that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was preventing the release of information that proved that the acceleration problems actually did result from driver error, and implied that drivers mistakenly pushed the wrong pedal. The lawsuit fights back against these reports and claims that Toyota has acted recklessly in their strategy to deal with the complaints—blaming all of the problems on driver error.
While this particular lawsuit has claimed that defective Toyotas led to financial harm for owners in the form of decreased resale value, Toyota is also facing lawsuits from people who have been injured during acceleration incidents. Recovery in those suits will depend on being able to prove Toyota’s liability for injuries one of four ways:
1. Negligence-If Toyota acted negligently in the manufacturing of their products and did not take reasonable care when they should have they can be held liable. The negligence could have occurred through using defective parts or improper assembly techniques if they added up to dangerous or malfunctioning products. If it can be proven that Toyota knew about problems and did not correct them, they undoubtedly acted below the appropriate standard of care in the manufacture of their products.
2. Breach of warranty-If Toyota sold vehicles to customers and did not uphold claims or promises made about their products they can be held liable. If Toyota has made claims about safety or promises about correcting acceleration problems that were not corrected, warranties may have been breached.
3. False Advertising- If Toyota ads led customers to believe that their products are safer then they actually are or distracted them from inherent risks in using the vehicles they can be held liable. If Toyota advertising promised no acceleration problems or that they have been corrected and they were not, they could be held liable here.
4. Strict Liability-Strict liability will exist here if Toyota, as the manufacturer or seller of a defective product, is found responsible for all injuries that occur from the use of the product. Victims in this case must show that the vehicles were defective and the defect caused the injury. If this is proven, liability exists regardless of a finding of fault on Toyota’s part.
If you drive a Toyota car or truck and were injured or otherwise negatively affected by an acceleration problem you may be able to recover damages. Please contact an attorney experienced with product defect cases as soon as possible to ensure that each of the proper steps are taken to increase your chances of recovery.