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Toyota Whistleblower Complaint May Open Rollover Cases

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, September 02, 2009 12:01 PM EST
Category: On The Road
Tags: Toyota, Rollovers, SUV, Roof Crush,

Toyota whistleblower says the company routinely destroyed court documents and evidence in rollover cases.


Destroyed Evidence?

Dimitrios Biller was a lawyer working for Toyota, the world’s largest automaker.

The 46-year-old worked for the company from 2003 to 2008 where he managed electronic records for Toyota litigation. That is, until he suffered a breakdown, he says, battling company executives over hiding data he was supposed to be preparing for litigation.

Biller eventually left the company and sued it for wrongful termination, receiving a $3.7 million settlement.

In July he sued Toyota (Biller v. Toyota Motor Corp., 2:09-cv-5429, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles), claiming the company destroyed engineering and testing evidence. The federal racketeering suit raises questions about the outcome of more than 300 lawsuits over Toyota SUV rollovers and roof crush accidents.

Biller says when he learned electronic data, such as e-mails, were being withheld by the company, he tried to collect and preserve the information.

“The petition alleges conduct by Toyota that would cause every case ever resolved by Toyota in the past 10 years to be re-opened,” said Mikal Watts, a Corpus Christi, Texas lawyer to Bloomberg News. “We intend to ask the courts to re-open these lawsuits.”

Among them was the rollover of a Toyota that left a 6-year-old a quadriplegic and dependent on a ventilator.

“Defendants are, and have, engaged in a systematic pattern and practice of discovery abuses and criminal acts against plaintiffs in litigation against the Toyota entities,” according to Biller’s complaint.

Toyota responds that it has 27 million vehicles on the road and rollovers “are a rare event.”

The company believes the lawsuit violates attorney-client privilege.

Spokeswoman Sona Iliffe-Moon says “We are disappointed that Mr. Biller has elected to file this lawsuit to attempt to avoid what we believe are his obligations as an attorney formerly employed by Toyota. Since this matter is in litigation, that’s all that we have to say at this time.”

Toyota sold 8.972 million cars and trucks in 2008, surpassing GM by about 600,000 cars to become the world’s largest automaker, reports the Washington Post. #

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