Toyota Lawsuits Claim Company Secretly Bought Back Defective Cars

Court documents filed as part of hundreds of Toyota lawsuits over sudden acceleration, allege that the Japanese auto maker bought back defective cars from some consumers and then swore them to secrecy. 

This latest claim by plaintiffs’ attorneys suggests that Toyota attempted to keep it quite that some of their cars were accelerating out of control, as the company allegedly never told federal regulators about the buy backs.

Toyota issued a statement last week admitting that it repurchased the vehicles, but says that it did so to conduct further engineering analysis and was unsuccessful in duplicating the claims of unintended acceleration. The company maintains that it did inform the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Toyota’s statement also says that the company never asked consumers to sign a confidentiality agreement, but it did have them sign a settlement agreement prohibiting further lawsuits over the acceleration problems.

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Toyota recalls have been issued for about 11 million vehicles since September 2009, with 8.5 million recalled due to complaints that they may accelerate out of control. The recalls were issued in waves, starting with 4.2 million recalled for problems involving the floormats, and then later recalls indicated that there was a mechanical or electrical problem with the gas pedals.

The accidents due to uncontrolled accelleration have resulted in a number of lawsuits, including personal injury lawsuits and wrongful death lawsuits filed by family members of people allegedly killed when their vehicles accelerated out of control.

In April, all federal Toyota sudden acceleration lawsuits were consolidated and centralized before U.S. District Judge James Selna as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL) for pretrial proceedings. There were about 228 federal lawsuits over recalled Toyota vehicles included in the MDL, and nearly 100 other lawsuits pending in state courts nationwide at the time.

Toyota is attempting to have many of the claims dismissed, claiming that the lawsuits fail to identify an actual defect in the vehicles. Many of the lawsuits claim that there is a problem with Toyota’s electronic throttle system; which the company denies. Toyota’s sudden acceleration recalls were for throttle pedals that could get stuck in the open position due to condensation or jammed under thick all-weather floor mats.

Toyota’s motion to dismiss will be addressed at a November 19 hearing.

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