Trials & Litigation

Lawyers See Flaws in Government Report Finding No Electronic Problems in Toyotas

A lawyer who is leading a class action suit against Toyota for a drop in vehicle value sees flaws in a new report that found no electronic problems that could cause unintended acceleration in the vehicles.

Steve Berman, the co-lead plaintiffs’ counsel, said the report won’t mean the end of his class action, report the Washington Post and City News Service.

Lawyer Brent Schafer, who is suing Toyota on behalf of a client imprisoned as a result of a Toyota crash, says his case will also go forward, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said at a news conference yesterday that acceleration problems were due to sticky gas pedals and floor mats that got in the way. “The verdict is in,” he said. “There is no electronic-based cause for unintended high-speed acceleration in Toyotas. Period.”

NASA engineers conducting the probe tested electronic circuitry in Toyotas, checked more than 280,000 lines of software code and bombarded the cars with electromagnetic radiation to see if it caused malfunctions, according to a press release. Investigators also analyzed more than 500,000 records from Toyota.

NASA engineer Michael Kirsch cautioned that “it’s very difficult to prove a negative,” the New York Times reports. But the electronic throttle controls wouldn’t fail, he said, unless two separate sensors fail simultaneously, and the probe found few instances of even one sensor failing.

Berman, however, didn’t think the report was fatal to his litigation.

“Our experts tell us that the report is just wrong,” Berman told the Post, “and they are confident that they are going to be able to show that the electronic throttle control contributed to unintended acceleration.” He told City News that he continues to hear of problems, even from people who have had floor pedals and car mats fixed in Toyota recalls.

Schafer, who represents Koua Fong Lee, is another who is downplaying the report. Lee was freed last August after spending 2½ years in jail for vehicular homicide. Lee had maintained he was wrongly convicted for the crash because his car accelerated even as he applied the brakes. “We feel that based upon our investigation, Schafer said, “there is a defect in the 1996 Camry that caused this accident.”

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