By on August 31, 2010

So you think when a big company gives you (and your lawyer)  a sizable sum to settle a lawsuit, the lawsuit is settled?  To their horror, Toyota just found out that it’s not over when it’s over. Toyota could find itself wide open. Possibly to hundreds of old lawsuits that were settled and could haunt them again. Five years ago, Pennie Green’s Camry rolled over. Of course, it was Toyota’s fault, why don’t they build roll-over proof Camrys.  The woman was paralyzed. The personal injury suit was settled for $1.5 million. That should be it.  Then Ms. Green and her lawyer had a change of mind that could change the world of jurisprudence. At least in America …

Last fall, Ms. Green filed a motion in Texas state court. She said she had been duped. According to the motion, Toyota  had deliberately withheld documents related to vehicle safety.  If Ms. Green would have had that information, she would have sought more money or would have gone to trial.

In February, Toyota asked the court to stay the case and to dismiss the motion, on the grounds that the court did not have jurisdiction in the matter. On Friday, the court lifted the stay, allowing the proceedings to continue.

According to the LA Times, “the ruling could have serious implications for Toyota. If Greene’s allegations are upheld the Japanese automaker could face not only a civil sanction, but also the prospect that dozens — if not hundreds — of other long-closed lawsuits against the automaker could be reconsidered on similar grounds.”

That in addition to hundreds of lawsuits stemming from its sudden-acceleration recalls over the last year. And that in addition to a record $16.4-million fine paid to the DOT. Slowly we’ll be talking serious money.

Who’s behind the matter? Dimitrios Biller, the former Toyota lawyer who had left the company with thousands of documents.  Biller had defended Toyota in the Green case. Biller and Toyota are in court also.

In Biller’s suit against Toyota, filed in federal court in California, he alleged that Toyota “conspired and continues to conspire, to unlawfully withhold evidence from plaintiffs” in rollover cases. Amongst the cases Biller mentioned was the Green case.

With the stay lifted, Biller will probably be able to testify in the matter. “We are disappointed that Mr. Biller is using the tragedy of Ms. Green’s accident to further his own claims against Toyota, which we strongly dispute and will continue to fight,” Toyota said in a statement.

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22 Comments on “Paralyzed Woman Puts Toyota In A World Of Hurt...”


  • avatar
    ronald

    They withheld documents? IF that is true, then Toyota should be in a world of hurt.

    I’m no fan of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, but the court system does not work if the companies can lie to the court without paying a price.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    It would be a more compelling case if the vehicle was a Toyota Highlander or Lexus GX460: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/toyota-halts-lexus-gx-460-sales-stock-drops/

    Camrys don’t strike me as being prone to rollovers, so it’s hard to imagine that Toyota would even have anything to conceal.

    • 0 avatar
      vvk

      You have never driven a Camry, have you? The suspension is so soft, I get sick driving it from all the up and down motion. I can easily imagine a Camry rolling over. It is only the fact that many Camry drivers never go fast that saves them from flipping over.

  • avatar
    Stingray

    It won’t only be Toyota. It will put the whole industry and many others in a world of hurt.

    WTF?

  • avatar
    skor

    “First thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”

    — William Shakespeare

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Oh, lord, not Biller again.

    He’s tried this before, and he was dropped by the state AG who found the document he supposedly had lacking. When it actually was examined, what Biller said he had, versus what he actually had and what Toyota was able to produce essentially proved he had nothing.

    Let’s look at some facts, shall we?
    * Biller was dismissed from Toyota after being paid a decent severance
    * Biller, before leaving, tried (and succeeded) in lifting any number of documents from his employer.
    * Biller, just after leaving, set up a one-stop-sue-shop for claims against Toyota. He solicited prospective defendants and AGs almost immediately
    * When it came time for discovery, his “evidence” was inadequate. Or rather, nonexistent.

    Biller more or less intended to ride the gravy train, hoping Toyota would keel over and he could make a not-insignificant amount of money. Problem is, he doesn’t have the evidence and Toyota knows it. The problem for Toyota is that Biller knows the tides of public opinion aren’t blowing his former employer’s way.

    • 0 avatar
      dmw

      You forgot to add that this clown has been referred for sanctions to the California bar and his law license is almost as tenuous as his case. Also, let’s not get vapors about “withholding documents.” No litigant is obliged to hand over every piece of paper that a plaintiff wants. There are rules in discovery and Toyota is not a bad company, or in violation of the law, for telling abulance chasers like Biller to drop dead when they ask to rumage through the entirety of the company’s documents, attempting to make them settle before discovery costs get higher than the demanded pay-out.

    • 0 avatar
      adonasetb

      Your sources?

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Well, I’d be very surprised if this one sticks. Courts are pretty big on the concept of “finality,” that is, once a case is litigated, appealed, it’s over.

    I understand the plaintiff’s argument — a basic contract law principle called “fraudulent inducement” which, if proved, is a standard way to void a contract. A settlement, among other things, is a contract.

    However, the institutional interest in making properly documented settlements (which include an exchange of “general releases” against all claims “known and unknown” final is absolutely huge. All of the stakeholders here — the courts, defendants and plaintiffs — have an interest in settlements being absolutely final.

    Remember, this sword cuts both ways: a defendant can use this argument to void a settlement, too. Suppose, for example, a plaintiff who claims permanent disability turns up as a player in a sandlot game of touch football two years later. You think a defendant who settled for millions wouldn’t like to know this . . . and wouldn’t pay handsomely for this information, if they could use it to bust open the settlement?

    I don’t see this surviving appeal.

    The Camry a rollover king? GMAFB! Any car can be rolled by striking the curb on a heavily crowned road at an oblique angle with even a modest amount of speed.

  • avatar
    obbop

    Pondering….. peering into the “wayback machine” nestled amidst the numerous cobwebs filling the vast voids within my oblate-spheroid-shaped head.

    Ahhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!.

    Early 1980s or later 1970s, I believe it was.

    FoMoCo, the Pinto’s daddy, was sued for not building a horse-proof roof for their Pinto.

    Oregon, if memory is correct. Pinto struck a horse in the road, sending the critter skyward.

    Descending our four-legged friend landed atop his mechanical kindred, upon the roof, crushing the roof and, I believe, killing the driver.

    The resultant lawsuit was in favor of those demanding funds for Ford’s failure to build a horse-proof roof for its Pinto.

    Little to no work performed to promote idiot-proof drivers.

    And I remain convinced that actual “accidents” are rare…. despite those who believe otherwise.

    • 0 avatar
      obbop

      Incredible….. Google found it.

      “The problem entered the legal spotlight in the early 1980s, after the Ford Pinto in which 20-year-old Kelly Sue Green was riding hit a horse near Portland, Ore. The animal was thrown onto the roof of the damaged car; the roof then collapsed onto Green’s head, killing her, according to news reports. A jury ordered Ford Motor to pay Green’s husband $1.475 million.”

      http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/2008-03-11-car-roof-safety_N.htm

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Common sentiments here aside, I’d refrain from using the ‘idiot’ term in the Pinto or Camry cases. Horses do collide with cars, and cars do roll over from a variety of circumstances that are not driver-related.

  • avatar
    jaydez

    Dear Congress,
    For the love of Christ, PLEASE enact a personal responsibility law to keep crap like this out of our courts. If your explorer rolls over its probably becaue YOU didnt inflate your tires. If your camry rolls over, well YOU just suck at driving vanila. If your pinto blows up its because YOU werent watching 306 degrese when coming to a stop. If your bronco II rolls over its because YOU drive it like an ass-hat.

    We, as a society need to start taking responsibility for our actions and our lives.

    Yes, I understand the throttles on toyotas MAY stick open, but for crying out loud, throw it in neutral and apply the freaking brakes. I had it happen to me twice in my life. Once in a Ford and once on a bike. Both times I walked away fine because I have >1/2 a brain.

    We really need to find a way to stop this crap. I’m tired of paying thousands more for a vehicle, electronic, restaurant food, etc. to fund possible litigation for someone acting like a 2 year old.

    • 0 avatar
      john.fritz

      You want this situation to get a hundred times more screwed up than it already is? Get congress involved.

      I absolutely agree with what you’ve written but congress-critters are not the solution. You already know the solution, you wrote it. Personal responsibility.

    • 0 avatar
      aspade

      The president is a lawyer. The vice president is a lawyer. The majority leader is a lawyer. More than half of Congress are lawyers. The last national Democrat who wasn’t a lawyer was Jimmy Carter and that was more than 30 years ago.

      They aren’t going to do anything about their own racket.

    • 0 avatar
      dhathewa

      aspade,

      Don’t lose hope. Al Franken is a comedian.

    • 0 avatar
      Daanii2

      Nancy Pelosi is not a lawyer. Neither is Barbara Boxer. Or Dianne Feinstein.

  • avatar
    Invisible

    This lawyer that left Toyota is proving to be a SCUMBAG of all SUMBAGS.

  • avatar
    Invisible

    So, this lady was just driving down the road, and some defect in her Camry made it flip over and roll!?

    Interesting.

  • avatar
    jimbowski

    Yes, i would like to know the details of the accident before making judgment. And, quite frankly, a rollover crash should not be made the financial responsibility of the auto maker. Maybe the other car involved (if there was one), a distracting passenger, non-tightened lug nuts from a repair shop…but not Toyota. As Chris Berman would say, “c’mon man”


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