Beaumont lawsuit alleges Toyota sudden acceleration not new problem

Michelle Massey Feb. 10, 2010, 8:46am

The sudden and unintended acceleration of Toyota's vehicles is not a new problem, according to a class action recently filed in Beaumont. The lawsuit alleges that the Toyota owners have been reporting these incidents since the 1990s but Toyota fraudulently concealed the risks.

Plaintiff Frank Whiddon, who owns a 2009 Toyota Camry, filed a lawsuit against Toyota Motor Corp. and Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. on Feb. 9 in the Beaumont Division of the Eastern District of Texas on behalf of himself and others similarly situated.

The plaintiff claims his vehicle may no longer be safe to operate due to the potential of a sudden acceleration problem caused by the defective accelerator pedal.

The lawsuit alleges that Toyota was unfair and deceptive in the design, testing, manufacture, assembly, development and sale of its recalled vehicles, breached express and implied warranties, and fraudulently concealed risks.

Further, Whiddon asserts that through the sale of the recalled vehicles, Toyota was unjustly enriched to the detriment of himself and other class members.

The lawsuit includes allegations from former Toyota lawyer, Demetrious Biller, who claims that Toyota intentionally withheld evidence in ongoing motor vehicle product liability litigations to prevent disclosures of vehicles' structural shortcomings.

The plaintiff claims the damages caused by Toyota will exceed more than $5 million.

Case background

After numerous complaints about sudden acceleration, in 2007 Toyota conducted an investigation into the matter and determined that that floor mats were causing the problems by obstructing the accelerator pedal. At the conclusion of the investigation, Toyota announced that the accelerator pedals were not defective.

In September 2009, Toyota recalled approximately four million vehicles due to the improper installation of floor mats. In reference to the floor mat recall, Toyota was criticized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for making "inaccurate and misleading statements."

According to court documents, a safety researcher, Sean Kane, reported that he found 19 deaths and 341 injuries caused from 815 separate crashes involving the sudden acceleration of Toyotas. The lawsuit also states that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received more complaints for Toyota vehicles than from any other manufacturer.

The complaints led to investigations using information provided by Toyota, which concluded that most of the accidents were caused by drivers accidentally pressing the accelerator pedal instead of the brakes.

After extensive media scrutiny, in January Toyota announced a recall of an additional 2.3 million vehicles after an internal investigation showed a "possibility" that certain accelerator pedals may stick in a partially depressed position. By the end of January, the recall was expanded to include vehicles sold overseas and the total number of Toyota vehicles recalled exceeding 7 million.

As the world's largest automobile manufacturer, Toyota makes approximately $270 billion in revenue.

Touting the safety of its vehicles on its Web site, Toyota states, "Our technologies will continue to advance toward the ultimate goal of making a vehicle that is safe for everybody."

Beaumont attorney Brian N. Mazzola is representing the plaintiff and the proposed class.

U.S. District Judge Ron Clark will preside over the litigation.

Jury trial requested.

Case No 1:2010cv00080

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