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Documents Show Toyota Withheld Evidence in Crash Suits, Congressman Says

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The Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has written to Yoshimi Inaba, President and CEO, Toyota North America asking him about some serious allegations. According to Representative Edolphus Towns (D-NY), documents reviewed by his committee indicate Toyota withheld evidence in lawsuits filed by people injured in crashes that involved Toyota vehicles.

Last week, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing into Toyota’s recent recalls and safety problems. Inaba, as well as Toyota president Akio Toyoda, both testified during the proceeding.

The documents Towns refers to in his letter were obtained under subpoena from Dimitrios Biller. Biller was Managing Counsel in the Product Liability Group of Toyota Motor Sales, USA (TMS), from April 2003 to September 2007. According to Rep. Towns’ letter, Biller led the defense of some of the largest tort cases filed against Toyota, including “rollover” cases involving seriously injured victims.

As we’ve reported previously, Biller filed his own lawsuit against Toyota in July, claiming Toyota conspired to withhold evidence in the rollover cases and forced him to resign when he told the company it had a legal duty to release evidence to plaintiffs’ attorneys.

Among the documents Biller supplied to the committee is an e-mail he wrote in which he agreed to a $1.5 million settlement in 2006 to avoid disclosure in a roll-over case. He also warned that the company needed to keep better track of cases of unintended acceleration.

The committee’s review of Biller’s documents also revealed multiple references to secret “Books of Knowledge” that were kept in electronic form, in which Toyota engineers kept their design and testing data across all vehicle lines and for all vehicle parts, Towns’ letter said. Towns purports that his committee now has evidence that Toyota entered into multi-million dollar settlements in lawsuits where they feared that the plaintiff’s lawyer was getting close to discovering the existence of the “Books of Knowledge.”

Towns has asked Inaba to review Biller’s records and provide a response to his allegations by noon on Friday, March 12, 2010.

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