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Toyota Lawsuit: Judge Sets Evidence Rules

By Jason Beahm on June 28, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Toyota Motor Corporation lost an early battle in the war that is the multi-billion Toyota recall lawsuit, In re: Toyota Motor Corp Unintended Acceleration Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation. Toyota is facing a total of over 200 federal lawsuits and more than 150 state cases. 

Toyota argued in court Wednesday that the protection of trade secrets should receive priority over disclosing the information for the sake of the recall lawsuit. U.S. District Judge James Selna disagreed. 

Judge Selna found that prohibiting confidential information from being shared with outside consultants and plaintiff's experts if those experts had worked for a rival car company in the past year was unnecessary. This despite a plea from Toyota's attorneys to prevent the sharing of the information, especially in the case of experts who had recently worked for a competing car manufacturers.  

Plaintiff's attorneys successful contended that Toyota's request was over broad and excessive and would have interfered with their ability to vigorously pursue their claim against the car manufacturer by limiting their ability to hire top-tier experts. Plaintiff's attorney Mark Robinson summed up the position of the of the plaintiff's side, "This is a very limited area of expertise...Most of these are people who have worked for other companies." 

Judge Selna's ruling means that Toyota must turn over hundreds of thousands of documents during discovery which will be labeled confidential at Toyota's discretion and sealed from the public.  However, those documents will be made available to plaintiff's lawyers, clerks, paralegal and consultants, even those who formerly worked for Toyota's competitors. 

Judge Selna did agree to Toyota's request to generally exclude allowing access to the documents for current employee's of Toyota's competitors due to a clear conflict of interest and loyalties. 

Toyota is staring down the barrel of civil liability amounting to over $10 billion as a result of class action lawsuits after runaway vehicles led to millions of vehicle recalls worldwide.  Toyota contends that the defects are limited to problems with floor mats and sticky gas pedals. The plaintiffs counter that the problems have to do with engine glitches which cause a surge in the throttle system. 

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