According to Reuters, a U.S. federal judge has given Toyota 30 days to turn over documents sought by class-action lawyers from previous investigations of complaints about the company’s cars racing out of control.
The order by U.S. District Judge James Selna marked a defeat for Toyota as it battles with lawyers who have brought many personal injury and class-action consumer claims against Toyota.
The automaker faces potential civil liability estimated at more than US$10 billion as it struggles to overcome an auto safety crisis that has tarnished its image. Complaints of runaway vehicles have led to the recall of more than eight million Toyota vehicles worldwide for repairs of ill-fitting floor mats and sticking gas pedals the automaker blames for surging engines.
Many of the lawsuits assert at least some of the acceleration problems are rooted in an as-yet unidentified electronic glitch. Toyota has denied such a glitch exists.
Two key U.S. lawmakers have said their preliminary review of internal documents turned over to Congress suggest Toyota “consistently dismissed the possibility” of electronic failures for years without thoroughly examining the issue.
Plaintiffs attorneys were seeking immediate possession of roughly 125,000 pages of internal documents already submitted to congressional panels and auto safety regulators.
Those papers have remained largely confidential, except for a relative handful cited in recent congressional hearings on Toyota’s handling of complaints of sudden, unintended acceleration in its vehicles.
Under the judge’s order, Toyota has 30 days to turn over any English-language documents it does not consider privileged — those involving communications with its own lawyers.