[JURIST] The California Orange County District Attorney (OCDA) [official website] filed a consumer protection suit [complaint, PDF] against car manufacturer Toyota [corporate website] on Friday, alleging that the company knowingly sold vehicles with acceleration defects. The suit seeks up to $2,500 in penalties for each violation of California's Unfair Business Practices Act [text]. The OCDA outlined [press release] the case against Toyota, saying it
…intends to prove the following in the litigation: Despite knowledge of the defects, Toyota continues to sell and lease its cars and trucks while knowingly concealing and suppressing information about the defects from consumers. Since 2001, Toyota is accused of falsely representing to the public that Toyota-manufactured vehicles are safe and reliable. Toyota continues to conceal from consumers that their vehicles cause sudden, uncontrollable acceleration when drivers are not touching the accelerator and attempt to use their brakes.
In response to the OCDA announcement, Toyota said that it had not yet received the formal complaint [press release] and would not comment on pending litigation.
The OCDA suit is the first consumer protection action [AFP report] brought against Toyota by a US district attorney; numerous individuals, however, have already brought suits against the Japanese automaker seeking compensation for damages and injuries. In a recent JURIST op-ed, law professor Bruce Aronson noted that Toyota's traditional governing structure contrasts with the typical American model and suggested that in light of its current manufacturing and public relations crisis, Toyota consider changing its corporate structure to give its board of directors more oversight power.