In a review of lawsuits filed around the country involving a wide range of complaints – not just the sudden acceleration problems that have led to millions of Toyotas being recalled – the automaker has hidden the existence of tests that would be harmful to its legal position and claimed key material was difficult to get at its headquarters in Japan. It has withheld potentially damaging documents and refused to release data stored electronically in its vehicles.
The AP reviewed numerous cases around the country in which Toyota’s actions were evasive, and sometimes even deceptive, in providing answers to questions posed by plaintiffs. Court rules generally allow a person or company who is sued to object to turning over requested information; it’s permitted and even expected that defense attorneys play hardball, but it’s a violation to claim evidence does not exist when it does.
How Toyota handled past lawsuits could indicate how it will deal with more than 130 potential class-action lawsuits filed by owners who claim the recent recalls have triggered a sharp loss in their vehicles’ value. Separately, Toyota faces nearly 100 federal wrongful death and injury lawsuits by victims who blame their crashes on sudden acceleration.