I’m not usually one to kick a company when it’s down, but I think Toyota may just deserve it.
The Associated Press has released a comprehensive report highlighting the auto company’s long history of deception in court cases. The AP found that Toyota (Stock Quote: TM) had “withheld documents” about the “internal roof strength” of their 4Runner model (despite being ordered to reveal all relevant information) in order to defeat a lawsuit filed by a father whose daughter died in a crash.
Then there’s the heartbreaking case of a woman from Texas who was killed “when her Toyota Land Cruiser lurched backward and pinned her against a garage wall.” In court, Toyota argued that it was “unaware” of any similar cases. However, as the AP reports, “less than a year earlier, Toyota had settled a nearly identical lawsuit in the same state involving a Baptist minister who was severely injured after he said his Land Cruiser abruptly rolled backward over him.” Not only is this deceptive, it actually goes against court discovery rules.
That’s pretty cold, Toyota. Pleading ignorance may work if you’re dealing with a customer who has found a hair in the soup, but it’s a terrible tactic to employ when people are dying because of your product. The AP also notes that Toyota now faces nearly 100 wrongful death and injury lawsuits related to this year’s slew of recalls due to brake and accelerator problems. Already, documents show the company knew about the accelerator problems well in advance, but chose to do a “limited recall” to save money. So, how will the company try to wiggle its way out of trouble this time?
Ultimately, much of their ability to evade and deceive stems from the fact they are not an American-based company. As one lawyer told the AP, "If Ford or General Motors tells you something and you don't believe that it's right, you can get a court order to go get access to the documents instead of relying on them. We can just go there and start poring through documents. We don't have that with the Japanese manufacturers."