The justice department recently announced that a $1.2 billion settlement — the largest financial penalty of its kind enforced on an automaker in the United States — has been reached with Toyota. This is the result of a four-year criminal investigation surrounding its response to unintentional acceleration problems, which began in 2009.
At that time, Toyota began to issue recalls stemming from faulty floor mats, gas pedals and brakes — which affected more than 10 million vehicles. More than $66 million in fines were paid between 2010 and 2012 for Toyota’s failure to report unintended acceleration troubles in a timely manner.
The investigation that led to the $1.2 billion settlement focused on whether Toyota had been straightforward in reporting the unintended acceleration problems. As part of their agreement, the automaker must admit it made deceptive statements and misled consumers about the safety issues.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s strongly worded announcement of Toyota’s financial penalty indicated that Toyota’s conduct in the matter was shameful and showed flagrant disregard for the laws and systems that protect consumers. He warned other car manufacturers about making the same mistakes.
In 2013, Toyota agreed to pay more than $1 billion toward the resolution of hundreds of lawsuits where car owners sought damages for economic losses stemming from the recalls. However, that settlement didn’t include the consolidation of other lawsuits, both personal injury and wrongful death.
Nearly 400 lawsuits have been filed against Toyota. In one particular case, a jury in Oklahoma awarded $3 million in damages to the driver of a 2005 Camry who had been injured and the family of a passenger who was killed in the same crash. The Oklahoma case is important to note because it was the first one — there had been previous trials involving the same issues with Toyota – that found the company guilty. Thus, it now must address the defects. Overall, this has been deemed a case where a company put its profits before its customers’ wellbeing.
This proves that large corporations like car manufacturers can be held liable for financial, physical and emotional losses when a defect in their products cause serious or fatal injuries. To learn more about filing a major claim like this, call Gacovino, Lake & Associates, a law firm in New York that has experience dealing with defective products: 800-550-0000.