New Albany attorneys in hot water over Toyota lawsuit

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

NEW ALBANY – Longtime city attorney Robert “Bobby” Carter faces ouster after 15 years of service because he agreed to file a federal lawsuit against Toyota.
The automaker’s newest facility sits just a few miles southeast at Blue Springs, in Union County, awaiting the corporation’s production go-ahead in the midst of a global recession and a massive product recall.
“Toyota’s not as upset as we are,” New Albany Mayor Tim Kent said Friday about his Board of Aldermen’s five members, who’ve worked with Carter across two decades.
Carter was unavailable for comment Friday.
Monday night, aldermen will go into executive session to discuss whether Carter should keep his job with the city.
Kent says Toyota sees the lawsuit as “just business,” although the officials he talked with say they would have preferred its filing in south Mississippi instead of the Northern District, where the company eventually plans to make vehicles.

The suit
Wednesday, Carter filed the class-action lawsuit on behalf of Belva Simmons of Union County, who claims her 2007 Camry is one of thousands under the recall because of sudden acceleration problems.
She’s seeking damages for the loss of value of her vehicle and because, she claims, Toyota has known about its vehicle problems for years.
Carter has offered to withdraw from the lawsuit, which he filed in Mississippi for two Alabama law firms, Kent says.
“I don’t know if that will make a difference,” the mayor speculated. “He’s been a good city attorney. I’d hate to see it end like this.”
He said the employment decision was put off until Monday to give aldermen a little time to let emotions cool.
Carter’s law partner, Thad Mueller, is attorney for the Union County Board of Supervisors.
Mueller reportedly has caught flak about the lawsuit, although he apparently is not directly involved with it.
“I can tell you that I have not been fired by the Board of Supervisors,” he said in a Friday e-mail.
Although he declined to say whether the controversy has caused him to withdraw from the law firm, Sumners, Carter & Mueller, a well-informed local source, speaking on assurances his name wouldn’t be used, said Friday that Mueller has severed his ties with the firm.