I am investigating whether this horrific crash that nearly killed my wonderful young client was caused by a faulty Toyota accelerator.
Here are the latest developments in what I believe may be the biggest and most deadly corporate cover up of all time:
1. Yesterday Toyota finally added the Prius to its limited list of defective cars that needed to be recalled — only after one suddenly sped up to more than 90 m.p.h. in San Diego. Prius drivers had already complained 406 times of these sudden and potentially fatal accelerations before this glorified car was recalled.
2. Last week the family of Mark Sayles filed suit, whose Lexus suddenly accelerated to 120 miles per hour on a San Diego interstate last August before tragically crashing and killing this 45 year old police officer, his wife, daughter, and his wife’s brother. SEE PREVIOUS STORY.
It was not until their terrifying 911 tape was posted to UTube that Toyota finally began recalling its defective vehicles in September. Toyota has blamed the floor mats for getting tangled up with the gas pedal.
At least 52 people have died and hundreds have been seriously injured in these sudden accelerator crashes.
Toyota has already recalled more than 6 million of its defective vehicles just here in the U.S.
3. On Monday, a 2006 internal memo was released proving that the company knew that its vehicles were defective. Toyota’s own assembly line workers warned the company that its quality had deteriorated and that more safety inspections were necessary. What did Toyota do? It ignored the problems, of course.
4. Furthermore, Toyota issued what these assembly workers called “secret recalls,” in which owners were told to bring in their cars for “routine checkups,” the dealer replaced defective parts, and then billed the owner for the work that it should have paid for.
5. “Everything Toyota does is hidden,” Fumio Matsuda, 84, often called the Ralph Nader of Japan for his investigation into shoddy car making practices, wrote this week.
Matuda added: “I believe there will eventually be criminal charges. They knew there were problems with their cars, but they didn’t do anything until they were pressured.”
You may not be old enough (I am) to remember that Ralph Nader, an attorney, got his start in 1965 documenting the unsafe features of the Chevy Corvair and other models in his ground breaking book Unsafe At Any Speed.. Nader showed how American car manufacturers deliberately designed cars that lacked vital safety features and instead used that money to add fancy styling that could even hurt drivers, like metal dashboards, confusing gear shift knobs, overweighted front tires, faulty rear suspensions, etc.
I was a member of TEXPIRG, Nader’s public interest law firm, while I attended the University of Texas in the Seventies.
In response, rather than fix its defective cars, GM outrageously tried to silence Nader by bullying him, illegally wire tapping his phone calls, following him, interviewing every one he talked to, libeling him in the press, and even sending women to lure him into sexual liasons so they could blackmail him.
6. Last week, an Illinois engineering professor released test results which showed that Toyota engines could rev without a driver even pressing on the accelerator! So much for the gas pedal/floor mat defense raised by Toyota.
7. A hearing is scheduled on March 25th in San Diego to consolidate the 89 separate lawsuits into one case. Investors are seeking damages due to the diminished value of Toyota’s stock price since the recalls began.
8. Multiple shareholder derivative lawsuits have also been filed accusing Toyota of concealing the truth about its defective vehicles, causing share prices to fall.
I challenge Toyota to stop blaming floor mats and gas pedals and fix the electronic throttle controls which are apparently causing these tragic deaths and senseless injuries.
And manufacturers should also include “smart pedals” and provide immediate access to the onboard data recorders so they can monitor real time performance of their vehicles.