Toyota agreed last week to pay a $1.2 billion penalty. The penalty will end a United States criminal probe into its actions involving defective vehicles that were recalled.
In 2009 and 2010, Toyota recalled over 10 million vehicles worldwide after complaints that the vehicles would suddenly accelerate. The company made modifications to gas pedals and floor mats, and also installed brake override software. However, according to the U.S. Attorney General, Toyota failed to promptly disclose and correct safety issues of which Toyota was aware. Toyota also allegedly made misleading public statements and lied to members of Congress. Toyota also hid the extent of the problem from regulators. As a result, the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan, as well as the FBI, opened a criminal probe of Toyota.
In addition to the criminal cases, Toyota faced numerous personal injury lawsuits from individuals who were either injured or killed because of the problems with the vehicles. Toyota has settled 131 of those cases, and is still trying to settle hundreds more.
As part of the $1.2 billion deal, Toyota will admit wrongdoing, pay the penalty, and submit to rigorous review by an independent monitor. Toyota will also be charged with wire fraud, although those charges have been deferred as long as the company cooperates with authorities. The fine represents the largest criminal penalty imposed on a carmaker in the U.S. The company says it takes responsibility for its actions, and strives to do better in the future.
This story illustrates the lengths to which companies will go to avoid recalling their products. Often, companies will choose to hide information from the public, and to quietly settle any lawsuits that may arise from their dangerous products, rather than to do the right thing and issue a recall. Recalls can be expensive and may damage the company's reputation.
Those who are injured by defective products have a legal right to compensation from the company that manufactured or sold the product. If you have been injured by a dangerous product in the Houston area, call the Houston product liability attorneys at Kennedy Hodges at 713-489-9493. Our attorneys will be happy to provide you with a free consultation. You can also visit us on Twitter to learn more.