New York (August 02, 2010) -- Plaintiffs suing Toyota Motor Corp. over problems with sudden unintended acceleration have revised their lawsuit to include supposedly new evidence of internal e-mails showing the automaker knew years ago that some models required brake override systems to stop sudden speed-ups.
The first amended consolidated complaint, filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, represents more than 40 million consumers and companies who purchased or leased Toyota vehicles made in the U.S. with throttle control systems, according to plaintiffs' co-lead counsel Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP.
Plaintiffs say in the new complaint that a federal investigator e-mailed a Toyota employee in 2004, telling the company that there was a more than 400 percent increase in “vehicle speed” complaints involving Toyota Camrys with electronically controlled throttles over those with manually controlled throttles.
Other e-mails among Toyota employees purportedly show that they knew years ago of complaints on the Internet of sudden acceleration in additional models, including Tacomas and Siennas, the complaint said.
“Plaintiffs have not cited a specific cause that would support their claim of a defect in Toyota’s Electronic Throttle Control System, and no credible scientific theory or proof has been advanced to support this allegation,” the company said in response to Monday's consolidated complaint.
“Toyota firmly believes that the system is completely safe and that reliable scientific evidence will demonstrate the safety of our vehicles in the investigations currently under way and, ultimately, to the court,” it said.
The company also rejected claims that the plaintiffs have suffered economic damages because of recent recalls, and it said it looked forward to defending itself against the new complaint.
What's more, Toyota said it had already identified and addressed two specific mechanical causes of possible unintended acceleration.
In April the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation centralized the litigation in California.
Toyota continues to face suits across the nation after announcing recalls involving more than 8 million vehicles worldwide, including 6 million in the U.S., mainly related to gas pedals that may become stuck under floor mats. Some suits blame the sudden acceleration problems on a defective electronic throttle control system, while other cases allege owners lost value on their cars because of the company recalls.
The company has also had to recall vehicles for other reasons, including a recall in late July of more than 400,000 Avalon sedans and Lexus 470 SUVs sold in the U.S. due to steering problems.
In early July the automaker recalled nearly 139,000 Lexus vehicles in the U.S. because of possibly faulty valve springs, which can cause abnormal engine noise or idling and, in rare instances, stalling.
The revised consolidated complaint was filed by Steve W. Berman of Hagens Berman and Mark M. Seltzer of Susman Godfrey LLP, co-lead counsel for consumers, as well as multiple other attorneys from additional firms.