A Dallas attorney says he will file Tuesday to reopen 15 lawsuits involving rollover accidents as a result of allegations by a former Toyota lawyer that the company withheld or destroyed crash safety data it should have disclosed in up to 300 civil lawsuits.
Lawyer Todd Tracy says he will seek to reopen the cases on the basis of fraud and racketeering if Toyota deleted or didn't hand over files as required.
Tracy is one of several lawyers revisiting cases in light of allegations made by former Toyota lawyer Dimitrios Biller in his suit against the company. He was involved in cases involving rollovers. Lawyer Richard McCune of Redlands, Calif., filed last week to reopen two cases and sought class-action status. Attorney Tab Turner of Little Rock says he's watching to see if it makes sense to reopen some of his rollover cases.
Biller, who left Toyota with a $3.7 million severance package in 2007 after four years on the job, filed a wrongful-termination lawsuit against his former employer on July 24. His filing alleges Toyota conspired to withhold electronic documents and crash test and other data that should have been disclosed in rollover lawsuits.
Reached for comment Thursday, Toyota spokesman Mike Michels said, "We stand by our record and believe our attorneys have acted appropriately in product-liability litigation." He characterized Biller's allegations as "inaccurate and misleading," but added he couldn't elaborate because of the pending legal action.
Tracy says he will file to reopen his cases in U.S. District Court in Marshall, Texas. They involve a number of different Toyota models. He says that in Toyota cases he's handled through the years, the automaker's experts have not acknowledged the existence of internal test data -- as Biller asserts -- that should have been made available.
"Clearly, documentation about a test program or anything applicable to a file is discoverable and should be turned over posthaste," Tracy says.
Biller's rollover allegations are becoming an issue in other types of cases, as well. Tracy says Toyota's lawyers have sought to bar him from bringing up Biller's allegations when he goes to trial this month with a lawsuit alleging defective seat belts in a Toyota.
Biller's filing claims that in addition to withholding information in civil cases, Toyota didn't fully disclose crash test results that were part of an industry group position on proposed federal rules on roof safety. He claims that Toyota didn't tell the government about an unfavorable result, but redid the test and reported only results that backed up its position.
Neither Biller nor his attorneys would comment Thursday on their case.
But that case isn't the only legal dispute involving Biller and Toyota. Toyota has filed to prevent the former company lawyer from disclosures it believes violate attorney-client privilege on the website of the consulting group Biller opened after he left Toyota. Biller says that the company is not even letting him list cases in which he was involved.