Saturday, November 6, 2010

Toyota faces new claims in defects case

Toyota faces new claims in defects case
Greg Risling, Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — Toyota Motor bought back vehicles from car owners who said the vehicles had unintended acceleration defects and the carmaker failed to report the problem to federal regulators, according to court documents filed in the sprawling litigation against the automaker.

Plaintiffs' lawyers contend the Japanese company compelled the owners to sign confidentiality agreements that prevented them from speaking publicly about the problems they encountered.

In some cases, Toyota's own technicians experienced the vehicles speeding up without pressing the gas pedal, according to the documents filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court.

"The deeper we dig into the facts that surround Toyota, the more damning the evidence that Toyota was aware of the issue and failed to act responsibly," plaintiffs' attorney Steve Berman said. "The revelation that they bought up the cars in question and prevented the owners from talking about their experience is curious at best, nefarious at worst."

A Toyota spokesman said the company is preparing a response.

Hundreds of lawsuits were filed against Toyota after the automaker began recalling millions of vehicles because of acceleration problems in several models and brake glitches with the Prius hybrid.

All of the federal cases were consolidated and assigned to a judge in Southern California.

Toyota has sought to dismiss the lawsuits, arguing drivers haven't identified any defects in the vehicles. In some of the instances, the automaker has said driver error was causing the problem.

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