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Legal Ethics

Ex-Toyota Lawyer Alleges Destruction of Evidence in Rollover Suits

Posted Aug 31, 2009 8:43 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The former managing counsel for Toyota Motor Sales USA has filed a lawsuit against his former employer alleging the automaker destroyed evidence in hundreds of rollover suits, leading to his mental breakdown and firing.

The racketeering suit by Dimitrios Biller claims Toyota destroyed evidence in a "ruthless conspiracy" to keep the information secret, CBS News reports. Biller, now a discovery and trial consultant, says on his website that he was an associate and partner at Pillsbury Winthrop for 14 years before joining Toyota.

The story says Biller’s suit has “electrified the plaintiffs bar, where some lawyers involved in vehicle cases have long voiced suspicions about foreign automakers withholding evidence.” The suit alleges violation of federal racketeering law, wrongful firing and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The July 24 suit (PDF), filed in Los Angeles federal court, alleges Toyota destroyed design and test data from an engineering subsidiary and withheld records on design and testing of vehicle roofs, according to the story.

“Mr. Biller repeatedly confronted Toyota executives about the need to turn over the evidence it was concealing and withholding, and was repeatedly told by Toyota executives, including in-house counsel, that Toyota would not comply with its legal duty to do so,” the suit says. Biller was forced to resign while on medical leave due to a mental and physical breakdown caused by Toyota’s “campaign to quiet his efforts,” the suit says.

Toyota alleges the suit contains privileged information and has filed a motion to seal the complaint. The company told CBS that Biller’s charges are “inaccurate and misleading,” and it takes its legal obligations seriously.

“In our view, Mr. Biller has repeatedly breached his ethical and professional obligations, both as an attorney and in his commitments to us, by violating attorney-client privilege." Biller was paid $3.7 million in severance, according to CBS.

Biller's suit also notes he has sued the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office, alleging he was wrongfully fired in a dispute over sheriff's deputies failing to show up for hearings or failing to bring evidence.

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