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Toyota Litigation Consolidated in Santa Ana

Judge James V. Selna will oversee the disposition of cases.

by on Apr.12, 2010

Hundreds of lawsuits stemming from Toyota's sudden acceleration problems could wind up bearing heard as one in a California courtroom.

A panel of judges has decided that all cases against Toyota Motor Company should be consolidated in a court close to Toyota’s California headquarters.

The panel selected Judge James V. Selna to preside over the litigation and coordinate pretrial discovery, where potentially damaging internal Toyota documents will be turned over to litigants.

Nearly two hundred suits have been filed concerning Toyota and its handling of unintended acceleration matters in U.S. federal and state courts. A finding by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it covered up a safety related defect, and delayed needed recalls concerning defective accelerator pedals compromises Toyota’s legal position. (See Toyota Broke Law! NHTSA Seeks Maximum Fines)

Toyota’s position is further weakened by Dimitrios Biller, a former Toyota attorney who sued the company last August, claiming that Toyota deliberately withheld evidence in rollover cases. That matter is currently in mediation in what looks to be a lengthy legal path. Representative Edolphus Towns (D-NY), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who has subpoenaed but not revealed (at least officially) some of Biller’s documents, alleges that they show possible violations of court discovery orders. (See Towns Claims Toyota Withheld Rollover Data )

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Viewers of TheDetroitBureau.com might recall that we reported at length last year that Dimitrios Biller, the attorney involved in Toyota’s rollover litigation from 2003 to 2007 has a troubling prior history of suing employers, including the prosecutor’s office in California, where he also once worked before being dismissed. (Click here, and here.)

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Towns Claims Toyota Withheld Rollover Data

Legal woes expand, again, at the beleaguered Japanese maker.

by on Feb.27, 2010

Is Inaba caught in a potential legal trap and the crossfire of Congressional elections?

Edolphus Towns (D-NY) said yesterday that a review of documents obtained under subpoena from a former lawyer at Toyota indicate that Toyota “deliberately withheld records” it was legally required to produce in response to discovery orders in litigation.

Where these latest charges lead is not immediately clear – and this matter is already subject to contentious litigation in California. However, without doubt this  complicates the tarnished quality  image and very real legal troubles that Toyota faces with respect to its handling of safety matters.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is also looking at whether Toyota acted according to U.S. law while recalling six million Toyota and Lexus vehicles in the United States after it became aware of problems with the sticking accelerator pedals and uncontrolled vehicles. The vehicles in question have been subject to several, ever widening, recalls since last fall, and at least 34 deaths are now, alleged, to have resulted from Toyota safety defects in the U.S.

Many of the documents in question, which Towns in his press release did not provide, apparently contain specific comments on  tragic “rollover” cases in which a driver or passenger was injured, including cases where victims were paralyzed.

The former Toyota lawyer in question, Dimitrios Biller, was Managing Counsel in the Product Liability Group of Toyota Motor Sales, USA (TMS), from April 2003 to September 2007.

In this position, Mr. Biller was part of the defense of some of the largest tort cases filed against Toyota, including “rollover” cases involving dead or seriously injured victims.

Viewers of TheDetroitBureau.com might recall that we reported at length last year, that Dimitrios Biller, the attorney involved in Toyota’s rollover litigation from 2003 to 2007 has a troubling prior history of suing employers, including the prosecutor’s office in California, where he also once worked before being dismissed. (Click here, and here.)

Congressman Towns, who – never ever forget – is up for re-election at a time when voters are clearly exasperated with ineffectual incumbents for their lack of action on financial regulation, fiscal responsibility and job creation, among other policy failures, subpoenaed Biller’s documents on Thursday, February 18, 2010 before the well-publicized hearing he chaired took place on February 24.

Former Toyota attorney Biller claims in his own separate and ongoing Federal fraud and racketeering case against Toyota in California that information had been withheld from accident victims in as many as 300 civil lawsuits.

Included in the cited — but we repeat unsupplied documents-  is apparently a memo by Biller to his superiors at Toyota, noting that Toyota has failed to produce any e-mails or other electronic records in response to discovery orders.

Toyota has succesfully suppressed the full release of Biller matter documents in a California Federal court.

The Towns’ Committee now officially says it has found multiple references to heretofore-unknown “Books of Knowledge” that were kept electronically, in which Toyota engineers kept their design and testing data across all vehicle lines and for all vehicle parts.   (more…)

Toyota Wins on Crucial Rollover Issues

Dallas attorney withdraws suit to reopen Toyota accident cases.

by on Dec.30, 2009

Rollover suits remain an ongoing Toyota image issue.

Dallas product liability attorney Todd Tracy has withdrawn a lawsuit to reopen 17 Toyota accident cases. Tracy did so after reviewing documents provided by a former lawyer for Toyota alleging that the automaker hid  evidence in the cases.

Tracy’s review did not find any evidence to confirm the claims made by ex-Toyota lawyer Dimitrios Biller, who has a troubling history of suing former employers.

Tracy’s move last fall was only one of several by plaintiffs’ attorneys attempting to capitalize on the Biller matter, a case where the former Toyota employee accused Toyota of concealing evidence about rollover accidents.

Toyota Motor Sales vehemently denies the charges.

Moreover, Tracy’s withdrawal of the fraud accusations is only the latest — and we predict by no means the last setback — for Biller as his case drags through the courts. A California Superior Court ruling in September  in connection with this ongoing  litigation described Biller’s conduct as motivated by “personal financial gain.”

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The Court also said that in its opinion “Mr. Biller has violated the rules of professional conduct and the business and professions code and has done so intentionally.”

As TheDetroitBureau.com reported at the time, 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 the prosecutor’s office in California.  (more…)

Texas Court Orders Toyota Not to Destroy Evidence

Liability lawyers are attempting to reopen long settled cases.

by on Oct.01, 2009

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.

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