Global Economics

Toyota Wins Dismissal of Rollover Crash Lawsuits in Texas


Allegations that Toyota hid evidence had prompted some to reopen a suit against the carmaker

By Edvard Pettersson

(Bloomberg) — Toyota Motor Corp. (7203:JP) won dismissal of a lawsuit by accident victims and their families in Texas who had sought to reopen cases after a former lawyer for the world's biggest carmaker said it hid evidence in rollover litigation.

E. Todd Tracy, a lawyer representing the victims, asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed in a filing yesterday in federal court in Marshall, Texas. Tracy sought in September to reopen 16 cases, 12 of which had settled and the others dismissed, after ex-Toyota in-house lawyer Dimitrios Biller, in a separate suit in Los Angeles, said the carmaker hid evidence in the cases.

Biller reached a $3.7 million settlement in September 2007 for wrongful discharge, according to court filings. Last October, Biller brought four boxes of documents to the Texas court that, Tracy said then, may have contained evidence of Toyota's alleged misconduct. Tracy said yesterday in an e-mailed statement that he reviewed copies of the documents.

"I did not see any type of concealment, destruction or pattern of discovery abuse that affected my cases that I had re- opened," Tracy said.

Mike Michaels, a spokesman for Toyota Motor Sales USA in Torrance, said in a phone interview there had been no settlement with the plaintiffs and that the company was pleased with the dismissal.

300 Lawsuits

Toyota rose 1.3 percent to 3,850 yen as of 9:37 a.m. in Tokyo trading, compared with a 0.7 percent gain in Japan's Topix index.

Biller sued Toyota in July, claiming the company destroyed engineering and testing evidence relevant in more than 300 lawsuits over sport-utility rollover accidents. Biller, who was sued by Toyota after he started a legal consulting business, accused the carmaker of racketeering, wrongful termination, infliction of emotional distress and defamation.

Biller worked at Toyota from 2003 to 2007 managing records for Toyota litigation. He "suffered a complete mental and physical breakdown" battling company executives and finally resigned after objecting to Toyota's insistence on hiding data, he said in a July 24 complaint in federal court in Los Angeles.

Jeffrey Allen, a lawyer who represents Biller in the Los Angeles lawsuit, had no comment on the dismissal of the Texas case.

The case is Lopez v. Toyota, 09-00292, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas (Marshall.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Edvard Pettersson in Los Angeles at epettersson@bloomberg.net.


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