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Class action lawyers allege Toyota knew about safety problems

A revised complaint to a class action lawsuit [materials, text] against Toyota Motor Corporation [corporate website; JURIST news archive] filed Tuesday in the US District Court for the Central District of California [official website] claimed that the company was aware of automobile safety problems in 2003, but failed to take action to protect consumers. Attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit submitted a Toyota internal report that allegedly proves that the company sold vehicles that it knew had acceleration defects. Toyota employees allegedly recreated sudden unintended acceleration [ABC report] in the laboratory, but the company did not reveal the information to the public. The report was one of many documents that a federal judge ordered [text, PDF] Toyota to submit to the plaintiffs' attorneys. Toyota released a statement [press release] defending the company's response to laboratory testing and denying any defects in specific automobile components. Many of the internal documents were not made publicly available because of privacy concerns.

In April, Toyota accepted a record civil penalty of $16.375 million [JURIST report] imposed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) [official website] for a four-month delay in notifying the agency about a problem with "sticky" and "slow to return pedal" gas pedals in various car models. A week earlier, the US Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation (MDL) [official website] consolidated more than 150 pending lawsuits [JURIST report] against Toyota and transferred them to the US District Court for the Central District of California [official website]. In March, the NHTSA enlisted the help of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and NASA [official websites] to conduct a 15-month investigation into the sources of recent safety defects. Toyota has been under federal scrutiny since December 2009, and has conducted several recalls.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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