Information on Toyota Steering Rod Problems Subpoenaed by Grand Jury

Toyota Motor Corp. has been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury seeking documents and other information on problems with Toyota steering rods

In a filing with the Securities Exchange Commission, Toyota announced on Tuesday that it had received the subpoena from a federal grand jury in New York’s Southern District on June 29; however the company did not give details on the nature of the case. The same federal grand jury issued a subpoena to Toyota in February over problems with unintended acceleration with Toyota vehicles. The company said it plans to cooperate fully with the investigation.

While Toyota did not reveal the nature of the case involved with the subpoena, it came just a couple weeks after a wrongful death lawsuit over a fatal Toyota pick-up truck accident resulted in a federal probe into whether Toyota stalled at recalling certain vehicles due to steering problems.

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The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) expressed concerns regarding whether the auto maker violated federal law by waiting nearly a year to recall one million vehicles in 2005 due to Toyota steering rod problems after it reviewed documents that surfaced during a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of Michael Levi Stewart. The lawsuit alleges that the steering rods failed and caused Stewart to lose control of his 1991 Toyota pick up truck on September 15, 2007.

Records obtained during the Stewart litigation indicate that Toyota had been receiving reports of cracking and breaking steering rods for 11 years before the company moved to pull 330,000 pick up trucks and SUVs off the road in Japan in 2004. The company told the NHTSA at the time that there was no problem with the American versions of the vehicles, but less than a year later, it recalled about a million similar cars and trucks for the same problem, That could be a violation of federal law, which requires an automaker to report safety problems to NHTSA within five days of their discovery.

The subpoena comes as Toyota is still reeling from the recall of millions of vehicles due to problems with sudden acceleration, which also involved allegations that the auto maker delayed acting on safety concerns. As a result of the recent recalls, Toyota faces a criminal probe, has received hefty government fines and dozens of new Toyota lawsuits over injuries and deaths have been filed.

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