Toyota’s problems with sudden acceleration, and all those lawsuits that popped up in due course, seemed to evaporate in a puff of smoke this week, when a report issued by NASA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) allegedly vindicated the car manufacturer by claiming that almost every single incident was the result of driver error, and not a problem with the car. (Read the report in its entirety here.)
But before you think that Toyota officials should be doing the Happy Dance, consider this:
The NASA-NHSTA experts are claiming that all these injuries were the result of mechanical problems (things like the floor map getting stuck), and not electrical system malfunctions. However, go ask the Toyota drivers and see what they tell you: as Steve Berman, the co-lead counsel on the plaintiffs’ steering committee for the economic class actions in the multidistrict litigation (MDL) against Toyota, was quoted in the National Law Journal, things don’t jive: the actual events are in “stark contrast” to what these experts are reporting.
This is just one report, from a government agency. It is not to be considered more than that, and there are fact issues which not only suggest, but downright refute, its findings.
What’s next? Not a lay-down. Nope.
Despite what the defense team would like the American public to believe, these doomday expert reports aren’t that surprising in any personal injury case where high amounts of money are at issue. Savvy plaintiffs’ attorneys come to expect them.
What happens now is independent third-party experts must come in and listen to the facts as well as evaluate the cars, to give their opinion of what has happened here, and if Toyota was releasing dangerous products into the American marketplace.
Because there’s a big argument to be made that the federal government’s report might not be the most independent and unbiased expert report here. Political motivations? It’s an argument that can, and will, be made regarding this latest development.