A federal judge in Texas issued a Temporary Restraining Order yesterday to prevent the Toyota Motor Corporation, its subsidiaries and members of its in-house legal team from destroying any documents about the crash worthiness of all vehicles manufactured by the company.
It was the latest move by plaintiff’s attorneys to capitalize on the Biller matter, a case where a former Toyota employee accused Toyota of concealing evidence about rollover accidents. The accusations were publicized by the CBS news show 60 Minutes.
Toyota Motor Sales, the U.S. subsidiary of TMC vehemently denies the charges.
Dimitrios Biller, the former National Managing Counsel in charge of Toyota’s National Rollover Program, worked as a lawyer for TMS from 2003 to 2007. He has a prior history of suing employers, including a prosecutor’s office in California.
Dallas attorney Todd Tracy obtained the restraining order in connection with the filing of a 17th fraud case that seeks to reopen lawsuits in which he claims key evidence might have been withheld.
“Toyota should heed this judge’s warning from the board room to the assembly line that every single email, every document, every bit of research, and all information about vehicle safety is now put on hold. I filed the motion out of concern that Dimitrios Biller’s allegations describe that a Watergate style cover-up was underway at Toyota to undermine the American legal system,” he said.
It is a common tactic to use emotional language such as this to influence, critics say bias, potential jurors in well-publicized cases.
The litigation hold ordered by federal District Judge T. John Ward must be distributed throughout the entire company, to outside counsel, and to outside experts and contractors according to Tracy.
The judge ordered Toyota not to destroy any documents pertaining to product liability cases, research, testing or documents subject to destruction under document retention policies. The judge will rule on issuing a permanent injunction in a hearing scheduled for October 7.
The order is also directed at four top member’s of Toyota’s California based in-house legal team: Christopher Reynolds, VP and General Counsel of Toyota Motor Sales; Jane Howard Martin, Asst General Counsel in the Legal Services Group; Eric Taira, Asst General Counsel for TMS and Biller’s immediate supervisor; and Dian Ogilvie, Senior VP and General Counsel during Biller’s employment.
“I’m now confident that this Temporary Restraining Order puts us on the road to getting Toyota to tell the truth to its accident victims,” Tracy said.