Sources at USA Today reported that Toyota will pay $1.2 billion in criminal penalties stemming from a series of recalls for faulty accelerators in numerous Toyota brand car models, which began in 2009.
The settlement, according to USA Today, is the largest criminal penalty to be imposed on a car company in United States history.
Attorney General Eric Holder said that “Toyota intentionally concealed information and misled the public about the safety issues behind these recalls,” and that the company’s conduct was “shameful.”
Chief legal officer for Toyota Motor North America Christopher P. Reynolds stated in a press conference that “Entering this agreement, while difficult, is a major step toward putting this unfortunate chapter behind us. We remain extremely grateful to our customers who have continued to stand by Toyota. Moving forward, they can be confident that we continue to take our responsibilities to them seriously.”
The billion dollar settlement calls for dismissal of the government’s case against the Japanese car company in exchange for Toyota’s payment and continued cooperation. The deal also stipulated an independent monitor of how Toyota handles safety communications, its internal handling of accident reports and its processes preparing and communicating technical bulletins. The federal criminal probe did not include the lawsuits and federal safety regulator and congressional probes of the Toyota sudden acceleration recalls and instead looked strictly at whether Toyota provided false or incomplete statements to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The case also investigated how Toyota handled consumer complaints.
To date, Toyota has paid approximately $1.6 billion to car owners for lawsuits in the cases and paid federal fines of more than $33 million for delaying its safety defect reporting to NHTSA.
Independent lawsuits involve instances in which Toyota vehicles accelerated without drivers’ intention. After an off-duty California Highway Patrol officer and three passengers in a Lexus ES were killed near San Diego in 2009, other reports surfaced. Toyota initially blamed floor mats which may jam under the gas pedal as well as potentially sticky accelerator mechanisms in several models and did multiple recalls covering both problems. While many safety experts alleged that there were problems with the vehicles’ engine electronics, an extensive investigation by federal safety regulators found no evidence that that the electronics were at fault for unintended acceleration.
Auto makers have come under heavy scrutiny following a surge of vehicle recalls in the past few years. Most recently, General Motors is in the midst of recalling more than 3 million of its vehicles following thousands of consumer complaints of faulty parts as well as defective mechanisms that caused 12 deaths. As a driver, we rarely ever consider the danger our OWN car can pose because of the trust we have for automakers. Yet, the scary truth is that defects continue to plague the United States consumer market, making us at risk for injury, and unfortunately death.
Like all consumer products companies, automakers have the legal responsibility to ensure that their cars are mechanically safe and do not pose a threat to drivers. As exemplified by Toyota, GM, and recently, Dodge, when car companies fail at making sure their cars are safe, they a legal responsibility for those who’ve become injured.
At the law offices of Altman & Altman LLP, our team of seasoned personal injury attorneys have five decades of experience handling all types of defect products and products liability cases, and we have the knowledge to fight against large consumer products companies to help our clients achieve substantial compensation for their injuries. If you or a loved one was injured as a result of a defective automobile part, or if you were injured because of a part that was recalled, call our office today to speak to an attorney to discuss your legal options and whether you qualify for a products liability claim. All initial consultations are completely free of charge and of no obligation to you. Our team of lawyers is available around the clock to answer any and all questions you may have about your case.