Toyota’s Billion Dollar Settlement: Sudden Acceleration Cover Up Targeted
Executives at General Motors (GM) have something new to worry about, now that the U.S. Department of Justice has announced that Toyota Motor Corporation has agreed to a settlement that will require them to pay a record $1.2 billion to avoid a criminal prosecution for safety issues involving Toyota vehicles. Essentially, according to the lead prosecutor against Toyota, the company is “effectively on probation for three years.”
In addition to the money, the settlement will include an admission by Toyota that it effectively lied to U.S. consumers about two separate problems that resulted in some of their vehicles accelerating, even as drivers were attempting to slow down. The company also agreed to allow an independent monitor to conduct regular reviews of safety practices throughout the company. The Monitor, whom federal regulators will approve, with the company paying for it, will interview executives and be in on safety meetings. In addition, a toll-free number will be set up, so that Toyota employees can anonymously report any problems they see. Also, going forward the company now has five days to report safety problems.
Attorney General Eric Holder made the settlement announcement himself. While he refused to talk about GM specifically, the federal prosecutor who accompanied Holder for the announcement, Preet Bharara, slipped and referred to Toyota as GM once, although he immediately corrected himself. Bharara was the lead prosecutor in the Toyota case, and his office in New York is also handling the GM criminal probe.
The settlement with Toyota only settles criminal charges against the company for the acceleration issues, which have been looming over the company for nearly seven years now, and which have caused at least five deaths. It does not settle the hundreds of private civil lawsuits that have been filed against the company based on this problem.
The Toyota case is considered a major victory by vehicle safety advocates, who have been pushing for more criminal prosecutions for years. This marks the first federal criminal case against a vehicle manufacturer since the first federal automobile safety law was passed in 1966.
It’s a good thing that the federal government is finally cracking down on car makers who place their profits ahead of the safety of the public. This should become a trend. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in an accident involving a defective Toyota vehicle, please contact the experienced Texas Automobile Defect Attorneys at Hill Law Firm as soon as possible to protect your rights under the law.