Chairman Towns rebukes Toyota, demands response

posted on:
March 2, 2010

author:
KURT NILAND

Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, announced on Friday that he had reviewed documents obtained under subpoena from Dimitrius Billings, a former senior attorney for Toyota who says that from 2004 to 2007 the company “made every effort” to conceal and destroy evidence that would have allowed plaintiffs injured in Toyota vehicles to take their cases to trial.

After reviewing the Biller files, Rep. Towns agrees.

“In sum, the Biller documents indicate a systematic disregard for the law and routine violation of court discovery orders in litigation,” Towns said.

“People injured in crashes involving Toyota vehicles may have been injured a second time when Toyota failed to produce relevant evidence in court,” Towns added. “Moreover, this also raises very serious questions as to whether Toyota has also withheld substantial, relevant information from NHTSA.”

Among the documents Towns reviewed was evidence that Toyota willingly paid premium settlements to prevent plaintiff’s attorneys from gaining access to its “Books of Knowledge.”

According to Biller’s files, Toyota’s Books of Knowledge are electronic files that “contain information on how to design vehicles and component parts (including safety systems like seat belts, side curtain airbags). The information does not relate to any one particular vehicle; the information relates to all vehicles. The information is essentially design principles and philosophies that serve the foundation for how Toyota designs its vehicles.”

Biller has said that he regularly advised Toyota that it had a legal and ethical obligation to turn over records for litigation purposes, yet the company continually forced him to hide or destroy key files. Biller personally amassed those records and blew the whistle, filing a lawsuit against Toyota in July 2009.

“This is a company that doesn’t have any respect for the laws in the United States,” Biller told Reuters. “This is a company that has no qualms about violating court orders, concealing or destroying evidence.”

“That’s not just me saying that. The documents I have say that. The documents I have prove that,” Biller said, adding that Toyota execs displayed hubris and acted with a complete disregard for American laws.

Towns sent his concerns to Yoshi Inaba, President and CEO of Toyota North America, in a letter and gave him until noon on March 12 to respond.

Additionally, a federal Grand Jury in New York and the Securities and Exchange Commission in New York subpoenaed records from Toyota as they investigate whether Toyota covered up complaints of sudden unintended acceleration in its vehicle

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