An incredible story out of California, where a former attorney for Toyota has accused the automaker of covering up evidence in as many as 300 lawsuits. Details inside.
The Los Angeles Times is reporting that a former Toyota attorney has accused the world's largest automaker of covering up hazardous problems with their cars in as many as 300 separate lawsuits. The lawyer, Dimitrios Biller, told the newspaper, "Toyota is a very secretive corporation."
"It doesn't believe anybody outside the corporation deserves to know what is going on inside, even if it kills somebody."
Biller's accusations are unrelated to the sudden acceleration issue known to affect eight different Toyota models. The sticking accelerator, and a faulty floormat that affects use of the gas pedal, has been the subject of a recall and production freeze affecting millions of vehicles.
Biller has filed a federal lawsuit accusing Toyota of tampering with and disposing of evidence. The suit claims that a culture of corruption exists throughout the automaker, leading up to the boardroom in Japan. He also says that Toyota frequently withheld evidence in other lawsuits.
The former employee acquired over 6,000 internal papers during his time at Toyota that support his accusations, Biller said. He says he got hold of the papers when mounting a defence in a 2005 case related to a rollover accident. Upon visiting several Toyota offices, he found a large volume of documents that had not been given to him, he said.
"I was distraught because I knew there probably was stuff in there that the company did not produce," Biller said. Biller would have been required by law to turn the documents over to plaintiff attorneys if they were requested. The documents are currently under seal, with an arbitrator deliberating on making them public.
"Mr. Biller is legally bound not to reveal documentation he acquired when he was in our employ," a Toyota spokeswoman told the LA Times. However, if the documents relate to a haphazard approach to public safety the arbitrator may ignore Toyota's stance.
"Toyota does not believe it has to follow orders or turn over documents," Biller told the newspaper. "They just don't think the rules apply to them." He went on to say that his supervisors made no effort to fix the problem once reported to them.
Biller received $3.9 million in severance when he left Toyota. Toyota's spokeswoman believes the release of documents would be a violation of his agreement with the automaker. Before Toyota, Biller handled product-liability litigation for Ford, amongst others.