Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Mysterious Lexus crash. '02-'06 Camrys still not recalled.

We now know that NHTSA is a bald-faced government lie. Not only regarding a crook like Toyota, but also GM. It's outrageous that NHTSA would dare to use NASA as a pawn, then broadcast a big lie about the space agency's conclusions concerning electronics in Toyota's throttle control. Equally outrageous when the auto industry "regulator" is caught red-handed allowing a murderous thug like GM to avoid recalling vehicles the corporate-kissin' slobs knew were unsafe to drive. The very idea of NHTSA ignoring bloodcurdling complaints, accidents, and at least 13 deaths.

NHTSA has been exposed as a taxpayer-financed propaganda machine for big business. And that gives consumers good reason to be uneasy about most anything imaginable when it comes to the safety of motor vehicles.

Case in point is this week's Easter night crash of a 2006 Lexus into a church full of people, injuries galore. All the earmarks of an unintended acceleration event, and given NHTSA's outright lies regarding the issue, nobody can be blamed for wondering. It's especially noteworthy that the driver says she was applying the brake when the Lexus suddenly accelerated. Embedded systems expert Michael Barr addressed this all-too-frequent situation in court testimony regarding the defects he found in Toyota's electronic throttle control. Mr. Barr pointed out that the driver would actually have to take their foot off the brake pedal and immediately press the pedal again in order to stand a chance of stopping the vehicle. I won't belabor the obvious unliklihood that anyone would ever do that in such a situation. Note the eery similarity of the Easter Sunday crash to a complaint filed with NHTSA on 4/14/08 regarding a 2006 Lexus:

LEXUS LS 430 BRAKES FAILED MOVING INTO A PARKING SPACE. PRESSED ON THE BREAKS THE SURGED FORWARD WENT OVER A BUMP, CURB, HANDICAP SIGN AND INTO THE BUILDING. WAS PRESSING ON THE BRAKES AND THE CAR JUST TOOK OFF. *TR

Easter night's mysterious Lexus crash hasn't exactly made national headlines. One reason, "Lexus" is a buzzword. It's the same make that Mark Saylor was driving when he make the 911 call that brought national attention to the problem of unintended acceleration. Amidst government efforts to hush things up about uninintended acceleration, Easter night's crash sounds the alarm bell that such events are continuing. In the wake of recent , compelling evidence of electronic defects, it's imperative that a bonafide investigation be conducted into where Toyota now stands regarding the things Michael Barr found in the automaker's electronic throttle control. A government with the best interests of the motoring public at heart would have no problem with that. Sadly, this sold-out excuse for a government and its presstitute mainstream media stooges are instead intent on keeping things as quiet as possible when motor vehicles - especially a Lexus - mysteriously speed out of control.

Which brings up the ongoing '02-'06 Camry scam. It's one of the grandest performances NHTSA and its good friend and corporate crook Toyota have ever come up with. Evidence relevant to the Camry scam has been around for years. But while consumers are ripped off by settlements the "Toyota Way," and placed at risk for injury, death, and financial ruin, one brave NASA physicist has apparently had enough of the Recall King's shenanigans. Dr. Henning Leidecker is speaking out - much to the chagrin of those less honest - about evidence of tin whiskers posing an increased risk of unintended acceleration in '02-'06 Camrys.

It makes no sense - outside the context of greed - for a lying slob like Toyota to ignore - with the blessings of government - the tin whiskers issue in '02-'06 Camrys. Isn't it a cryin' shame when a country is ruled by two-bit punks? Deceitful, self-absorbed thugs whose only yardstick for morality is the almighty (for the moment, at least) dollar? How much would it cost Toyota - with an ill-gotten cash stash of $60 billion - to update the pedal sensors in '02-'06 Camrys?

Here's the problem.

Toyota and its good friends at NHTSA know that NASA's Dr. Leidecker is beyond reproach. And a cowardly smear campaign - like the one Toyota contemplated against Southern Illinois University's Professor David Gilbert - isn't to be dared against a NASA physicist. In fact, that would spread the truth even more about NHTSA's big lie regarding NASA's conclusion about the electronics issue. Worse yet, if the Recall King recalled '02-'06 Camrys, the electronics issue associated with unintended acceleration would break loose in worldwide, eye-catching headlines. Then the Recall King would have to address whether or not its electronic throttle control is still as defective as embedded systems expert Michael Barr found it to be.

As instances of unintended acceleration continue, the public has a right to know of Dr. Leidecker's concerns about '02-'06 Camrys, and whether or not Toyota has corrected the defects Mr. Barr found during his exhaustive, 18 month investigation of Toyota's much ballyhooed source code. Defects which produced a resounding guilty verdict in the landmark unintended acceleration case in Oklahoma last October. Take another look at what Mr. Barr found - prompting a jury to say Toyota exhibited "reckless disregard" for public safety - and ponder the government's highanded response. Trade journal EDN's article, "Toyota's killer firmware: Bad design and its consequences," gives an apt summary of the evidence:
  • Toyota’s electronic throttle control system (ETCS) source code is of unreasonable quality.
  • Toyota’s source code is defective and contains bugs, including bugs that can cause unintended acceleration (UA).
  • Code-quality metrics predict presence of additional bugs.
  • Toyota’s fail safes are defective and inadequate (referring to them as a “house of cards” safety architecture).
  • Misbehaviors of Toyota’s ETCS are a cause of UA.
Next thing ya know, someone is gonna claim that Amerika is an oligarchy. A place where corporate thugs like Toyota and GM dog it over brainwashed citizens too tail-tucked to protest, even if they could somehow be made aware of tyranny's onslaught.

Update 4/24/2014 - When writing this post, I focused on news coverage in the Fort Meyers area. National coverage of Easter Sunday's Lexus crash - while not approaching the same level as the Saylor event - was better than I realized. Stay tuned. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

NASA physicist warns of unintended acceleration risk in '02-'06 Camrys

"A case of a Toyota with galloping acceleration — but not a fully open throttle — was attributed to tin whiskers. And Leidecker pointed out that Toyota redesigned its pedal sensor in 2007 and again in 2008, expressly to eliminate the risk of tin whiskers. Why would it do that if tin whiskers were never a problem? he asked. Toyota did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Leidecker said he believes the tin whisker risk remains for Toyotas in model years 2002-2006. While the risk is small, it increases with time. 'It’s a game of Russian roulette,' he said."
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 4/5/2014 article, "A Carbondale professor, runaway Toyotas, and the hunt for 'tin whiskers'" 

So you'd think Toyota, NHTSA and the Department of Justice would be anxious to learn more. You'd think Toyota would be concerned enough to advise Camry owners accordingly, and issue a recall for those models to update the pedal sensors.

But you'd be wrong.

Instead, our tacky little corporate-controlled government and its good friend Toyota are trying to keep things quiet about any electronics involvement in the unintended acceleration scandal. So when the St. Louis Post-Dispatch repeatedly asked Toyota to comment on Dr. Leidecker's remarks, the Recall King - in typical, highhanded, "Toyota Way" fashion - smugly refused to respond. Reminds ya of the "Department of Justice" e-mailing a curt "No comment" when trade journal EE Times' freelance writer David Benjamin asked 'em if they'd ever heard of embedded systems expert Michael Barr finding bugs in Toyota's electronic throttle control. Congress has done no more than display some grand theatrics, and NHTSA (No Help To Solve Anything) had the unmitigated gall to bow out of the unintended acceleration issue by broadcasting the now-obvious lie that NASA had ruled out electronics.

"No comment" indeed. Not to mention lies.

People's lives are at stake. Compelling evidence of defects in Toyota's electronic throttle control has been produced. How dare this corporate-controlled slob of a government - Repukes and Demagogues alike - and its good friend Toyota remain aloof. Refuse to even acknowledge the issue, and have its mainstream-media stooges do likewise. In what sense do we have a free press when consumers have to depend on trade journals to reveal the facts? The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is to be commended for daring to take a step in the right direction.

The scam regarding '02-'06 Camrys is apparent in this interview with the owner of a 2005 model, justifiably unhappy with the chump change she got in Toyota's much-ballyhooed billion dollar, class-action economic loss settlement. Toyota (!) "never determined that sudden acceleration was the reason her vehicle crashed." Never mind, of course, that '02-'06 Camrys have an exceptionally high rate of unintended acceleration complaints.   

Talk about a racket.

BIG BUCKS for attorneys. CHUMP CHANGE AND BALD-FACED LIES for consumers, who never shoulda had to file lawsuits in the first place. Worse yet, much of Toyota's "settlement" money is earmarked for "safety research" that blames drivers for unintended acceleration. Settlements the "Toyota Way" cleverly promote the myth of driver error, while creating a database of misleading information that the Recall King can blabber about in future cases of runaway Toyotas.

It's about time consumers demanded a bit of fundamental fairness outta dishonest corporate slobs like Toyota, GM, and their government mouthpieces.

Update 4/18/2014 - The '05 Camry case referenced below targeted "tin whiskers" and software. No wonder the Recall King reached a settlement :-)

Update 4/17/2014 -
This just in: "Attorney: Family of dead motorist, Toyota reach settlement in Flint sudden acceleration suit." As word of Dr. Leidecker's concern leaks out, Toyota is probably in a BIG hurry to settle as many lawsuits as possible involving '02-'06 Camrys. NHTSA, where are ya? 
>  Found some background on the above case. One of the victim's children summed things up quite well: "The 2005 Camry should have been one of the first ones to be in the recall," said Lilia Alberto. "How many more deaths do they want to have before they have to put it in the recall?"
>  This 2/8/10 article shows that Toyota's electronic throttle control was blamed from the get go. "Eric Synder, a lawyer for the family, told the Times, 'We think Toyota has a safety problem with the electronic throttle control system in Camrys and other Toyota models."' 
>  One more background article - from 6/1/12 - aptly titled "Toyota Owners Forced to Continue Driving Ticking Time Bombs"

Update 4/15/2014 - A German firm has published some interesting revelations about tin whiskers: http://www.dguv.de/ifa/Praxishilfen/Zinnwhisker-auf-Leiterplatten/index-2.jsp   

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

NASA physicist targets Toyota's electronic throttle control

"Leidecker said he believes the tin whisker risk remains for Toyotas in model years 2002-2006. While the risk is small, it increases with time. 'It’s a game of Russian roulette,' he said." - 4/5/2014 article, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "A Carbondale professor, runaway Toyotas and the hunt for 'tin whiskers"' 

Toyota and its government friends refuse to talk about it, but there's evidence galore of electronic issues associated with sudden, unintended acceleration. After all, the Recall King did fork over some payola to end the federal criminal "investigation," shamfully (sic) limited to floor mats and sticky gas pedals. It's obvious that Congress, NHTSA, and the DOJ put on one whopper of a performance, intended all along to let a filthy-rich corporate slob - with a cash stash of 60 billion bucks - off the hook, nobody jailed. More of the same is underway with GM. 

Never mind that renowned embedded systems expert Michael Barr found bugs in Toyota's electronic throttle control and gave the Recall King a whuppin' in an Oklahoma court. Never mind that Mr. Barr's findings put the Recall King in "settlement mode" for hundreds of remaining unintended acceleration cases. And never mind that tenured professor Dr. David Gilbert impressed NASA - yes, NASA, but don't tell NHTSA - with electronics-related findings now supported by NASA physicist Henning Leidecker who refers to Dr. Gilbert as a "hero" regarding the tin whiskers issue. Physicist Leidecker has concluded that the risk of unintended acceleration increases as tin whiskers grow, and points to Toyota's redesign of pedal sensors, expressly intended to address the tin whisker risk. "Why would (Toyota) do that if tin whiskers were never a problem?" he asks. Of course, the Recall King simply ignored repeated requests to comment about Dr. Leidecker's remarks.

Soon to be published in the prestigious online engineering journal IEEE Access is yet another electronics study - this time by Dr. Antony Anderson - offering a detailed look at the potential for false speed signals to be accepted as authentic, triggering unverifiable instances of unintended acceleration. Dr. Anderson butts heads with NHTSA, demonstrating that "absence of proof" isn't "proof of absence."

A decent government would have taken a serious look at the unintended acceleration issue instead of trying to snow the public by grandstanding with NASA and then broadcasting an outright lie, claiming NASA had ruled out electronic involvement. NASA did no such thing, never claimed it had, and physicist Leidecker's outspoken interest in tin whiskers confirms it.

Instances of sudden unintended acceleration continue. For thousands of customers, Toyota's oil sludge fiasco never got resolved. Engine failures in MR2 Spyders are ignored, and class action lawsuits lining barrister pockets make headlines as Toyota treats customers like dirt.

Does anyone believe Toyota, GM, or the auto industry has changed for the better?

Updates 4/9/2014 -
>  Yesterday, Dr. Antony Anderson's comments below the St. Louis Post-Dispatch article were apparently removed, and Dr. Anderson says no explanation was given. Dr. Anderson addressed some technical issues, stated his support for Dr. David Gilbert, and criticized Toyota's response to Dr. Gilbert's findings. Hopefully, Dr. Anderson's remarks will reappear.  
>  Another massive Toyota recall, and government stooge Yahoo is immediately removing comments I post referring to Michael Barr's findings, and Dr. Leidecker's concerns about the increased risk of unintended acceleration in '02-'06 Camrys. Censorship the American way. 

Updates 4/10/2014 -
>  Dr. Anderson's comments (see yesterday's update) on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch article reappeared today. Right on!!! The public needs to know that Dr. Gilbert's findings have the support of other electrical engineers. Oops - mighta spoke too soon. Don't see the comments - I'm lookin' into the matter :-) 
>  The gist of my Yahoo comments (again, see yesterday's update) reappeared yesterday.

Updates 4/11/2014 -
>  Dr. Anderson (see above updates) apparently encountered a log-in glitch. Hopefully, this will be cleared up today. 
>  Dr. Anderson's comments - with the sincere assistance of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch - are now posted. The problem turned out to be - wouldn't ya know it? - Facebook. Dr. Anderson was attempting to log in using his Facebook account, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch webmaster discovered that Facebook had designated Dr. Anderson as a "user who is suspiciously new," thereby blocking his efforts to post comments. I won't belabor the obvious absurdity.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

March sales DOWN for Toyota brand cars

"Toyota brand cars, which make up nearly half of all company sales, saw a 2.9 percent drop to 103,888 units." (Not that mainstream media would bury this whoppin' one line disclosure, but to find it, ya gotta scroll down to about the 14th paragraph.) 

I figured all was not well for the Recall King's March sales when I didn't see a barrage of blaring headlines about the numbers. Kinda embarrassin' - 'specially that 16 percent drop in Prius sales - for those who claimed the public wasn't payin' any attention to Toyota's recent guilty plea to a federal criminal charge, its admissions of wrongdoing, and the $1.2 billion payola to the feds lest things get even worse. If any model has made headlines regarding sudden unintended acceleration, it's the much ballyhooed Prius.

Despite mainstream media efforts to whitewash the Recall King, focus on floor mats, sticky gas pedals, and driver error - while ignoring electronic issues - the public may be catchin' on to the scam. As I emphasized in my immediately preceding post, word has leaked out about electronic issues. The Oklahoma case, where 150 feet of skid marks from the plaintiff's tires corroborated the findings of a world-renowned embedded systems expert and put the Recall King in settlement mode, has not been ignored. Michael Barr's peers continue to do a superb job of publishing his findings in trade journals, amidst support from bloggers and consumer advocates. The Internet can be a powerful tool for exposing facts. Mainstream media's news blackout didn't go as planned. 

Not that everyone is now aware of Michael Barr's findings, but people are hearing about them, and government's mainstream media stooges - wary of egged faces - are nervously dropping inane hints about the involvement of electronics. Consumers may be starting to realize that Congress, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the Department of Justice are little more than mouthpieces for crooked corporations. Stay tuned as the gang faces further public scrutiny, not only about Toyota, but also GM.

As things now stand, informed consumers are more justified than ever before in not trusting Toyota and wondering if there's a problem in the Recall King's electronic throttle control. Nobody should be surprised that Toyota brand cars has suffered a decline in sales, especially since complaints of sudden unintended acceleration are continuing.

Frankly, I won't believe regulation of the auto industry has changed for the better until folks are reimbursed for all those engines that disintegrated in MR2 Spyders.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Mainstream media hints at bugs in Toyota's electronic throttle control

Did Toyota admit to electronic defects associated with unintended acceleration as part of the federal criminal settlement? Listen to the attorney for unjustly imprisoned Toyota driver Koua Fong Lee in this CBS podcast, segment 20:00 to 20:53.

There's been some strange language in mainstream media articles about Toyota's $1.2 billion payoff - er I mean settlement - to end the federal criminal investigation. Real hoot for anyone aware of world-renowned embedded systems expert Michael Barr finding bugs in Toyota's electronic throttle control.

The Department of Justice gang made it clear from the get go that news is to be limited to concerns about Toyota's pesky floor mats and sticky accelerator pedals. Their position was underscored when EE Times' freelance writer David Benjamin asked the DOJ point blank, in writing, if they were aware of Michael Barr's findings, and if so, why they hadn't investigated. And the DOJ curtly replied, "No comment." In like fashion, Toyota whistleblower Betsy Benjaminson telephoned the DoJ, brought up Mr. Barr's findings, and was asked to spell his name.  

With Michael Barr's findings leaking out on the Internet, Associated Press kinda broke ranks with the DOJ, reporting that "until now" (7th paragraph) Toyota had blamed floor mats, sticky accelerator pedals, and driver error. Strangely, neither AP nor NPR saw fit to mention what Toyota is blaming "now," and I musta missed Toyota's press release.

Then there's this article, extolling Dr. David Gilbert, a professor at Southern Illinois University. He's the guy who'd been sayin' all along that Toyota's sudden acceleration problem was in the electronics. Even had the audacity to testify before Congress. The article says the professor - who nearly lost his job for daring to speak out - has been vindicated by Toyota's federal criminal settlement, 'cause "before the settlement" Toyota blamed floor mats, sticky accelerator pedals, and driver error. Here again, the article stops short of specifying what Toyota is now blaming, but it does bring up Professor Gilbert and his claims about electronics. That gives the Southern Illinoisan one up on NPR and the Associated Press. What we'll see next - and from which media source - is anybody's guess. Where, oh where, is that Toyota press release revealing what the Recall King is now blaming for its problems with sudden unintended acceleration?

Looks like a convoluted game of chicken is takin' place amongst America's presstitute mainstream media. Something along the lines of "Who will be first to dare to print the name Michael Barr, disclose his findings, highlight his testimony and the 150 feet of skid marks left by the plaintiff's tires in the Oklahoma case, and put it all in Toyota-settlement-mode perspective?"

Word is leaking out about Michael Barr, and it looks bad for mainstream media - not to mention NHTSA and the DOJ - to keep ignoring Mr. Barr's findings. Must be awful. Here the guvmint is, makin' it clear that electronic issues are not to be addressed, and here the Emperor is, out in public runnin' around stark naked. What is Police State Press to do? Reminds me of that movie where the lawyer was suddenly unable to stay quiet, and was also unable to lie. Watch mainstream media squirm as the heat gets hotter, turned up all the more by Columbia Journalism Review's scathing criticism of the Wall Street Journal's editorial blabber on behalf of Toyota. CJR exposed WSJ for "brazenly" ignoring the Recall King's own admissions of wrongdoing.

Ya can't have it both ways. At least ya couldn't "until now."

Let's face it. The time has come for government and its mainstream media stooges to address the  compelling evidence of problems in Toyota's electronic throttle control, and determine if there are bugs yet to be exterminated. Put up or shut up. Meanwhile - as complaints of sudden unintended acceleration continue - Mr. Barr's peers over at EE Times are proudly naming him as the guest of honor at their upcoming conference March 31st - April 3rd.

Betcha mainstream media won't dare to mention EE Times' conference. After all, it's only the public's safety that's at stake.

Updates 4/1/2014 -
>  Found another Southern Illinoisan article about Dr. Gilbert, cleverly stating "Changes are underway with car manufacturers thanks to a SIU professor. It comes four years after David Gilbert shared his concerns regarding (electronic) acceleration issues in Toyota vehicles. Now, Toyota has been fined more than $1 billion for the way it handled 'the' (emphasis mine) deadly safety flaws." The rest of the article includes "tin whiskers are not the only issues that can cause acceleration problems..." http://www.wsiltv.com/news/local/Local-Professors-Findings-Spark-Car-Safety-Changes-253069331.html 

>  Strong criticism of Toyota today at the EE Times conference. Speaking to an audience of his peers, embedded systems expert Michael Barr said "Despite assurances by companies like Toyota that their software undergoes rigorous testing, the rush to get cars on the road means that you, the users, have been testing the software." http://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1321734

Update 4/6/2014 - Yesterday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch also chimed in with an article about Dr. Gilbert (so far, the closest mainstream media dares come to mentioning Michael Barr), revealing that Professor Gilbert has support at NASA (don't tell NHTSA). And a physicist at NASA believes there's increased liklihood of unintended acceleration events as "tin whiskers" continue to grow, notably in Toyotas manufactured from 2002-2006. Toyota redesigned pedal sensors in 2007 and 2008, with the express intent of eliminating the tin whisker risk, and NASA Physicist Henning Leidecker asks the obvious question: "Why would (Toyota) do that if tin whiskers were never a problem?" As one might guess, Recall King Toyota "did not respond to multiple requests for comment."     

Friday, March 21, 2014

Feds' billion dollar deal protects Toyota

Talk about a slap on the wrist. Ol' corporate-controlled puppet Uncle Scam has done it again for his bosom buddy Toyota. What a racket. What a sham.

First off, by what rhyme or reason is anyone allowed to buy their way out of a criminal investigation? So much for the public interest. And second, what kinda brainwashed individual is it that thinks Toyota is being punished? Like previous "punishments" - wet noodled by NHTSA - the dollar amount - this time comin' to $1.2 billion - is only "staggering" to most individuals. The feds are well aware that Toyota is a filthy-rich corporation with a cash stash of 60 - SIXTY - billion bucks. 

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder rants about what Toyota has done, noting the criminal charge, Toyota's admission of wrongdoing, etc. Problem is, there's no serious effort to discipline the Recall King. Nowhere is there even any mention of the name Michael Barr. Who's that again? Michael Barr? Oh... you mean the world renowned computer expert who found bugs in Toyota's electronic throttle control software? The guy whose findings prompted the billion dollar economic loss settlement in December of 2012, and the landmark guilty verdict in Toyota's sudden unintended acceleration case in Oklahoma last October where the plaintiff's tires left 150 feet of skid marks? The fella whose findings put Toyota in its current settlement mode regarding all of the remaining cases of sudden unintended acceleration and the federal criminal complaints? Not sure that we've ever heard of him. Or those skid marks. What was that name again?

Really, folks. As complaints of sudden unintended acceleration continue, how utterly ridiculous can a corporate-controlled government get? Rake in a cool billion point two bucks wortha payola for ending a criminal probe, ignore evidence of electronic problems, and hardly scratch the financial surface of a corporate culprit-at-large. It's gotta be hard for mainstream media, NHTSA, and Holder to keep a straight face.

We haven't heard the end of Toyota's problems with sudden unintended acceleration. Word is leaking out about Mr. Barr's findings. His peers, trade journals, whistleblowers, and bloggers are filling in the blanks left by mainstream media. End of this month, Mr. Barr will be the featured guest at an EE Times conference. Stay tuned.

Update 3/21/2014 - As Toyota's government friends rake in payola for droppin' the criminal probe, here's the kinda chump change CONSUMERS are gettin' in Toyota's billion dollar class-action settlement for economic loss associated with claims of sudden unintended acceleration: http://www.wcpo.com/money/consumer/dont-waste-your-money/tri-state-residents-unhappy-over-toyota-settlement-over-faulty-acceleration

Updates 3/27/2014 - 
> Found an excellent article - the only one I know of published by anything close to mainstream media - that gives comprehensive coverage of the Oklahoma case and puts Toyota's problems with sudden unintended acceleration in proper perspective: http://www.sddt.com/Commentary/article.cfm?SourceCode=20131104tbc&Commentary_ID=140&_t=Software+bugs+found+to+be+cause+of+Toyota+acceleration+death

Since Toyota whistleblower Betsy Benjaminson is mentioned in the above referenced article, here's a closer look at Betsy and her struggles to reveal the truth: http://www.timesofisrael.com/high-price-but-no-regrets-for-israels-gutsy-toyota-whistle-blower/

> Mainstream media's rush to defend Toyota has become so outlandish, the Columbia Journalism Review has published an article addressing the issue: http://www.cjr.org/the_audit/the_toyota_skeptics.php?page=1 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Jailed Toyota driver deserves punitive damages

If anyone ever deserved a punitive damage award, it's Koua Fong Lee, the financially-challenged immigrant who was falsely imprisoned for two years after his Toyota Camry sped out of control, resulting in multiple deaths and injuries. Amidst publicity regarding Toyota's problems with sudden unintended acceleration, charges were finally dropped, and Lee was released. That's all well and good.

However...

As Lee weighed his legal options, something very strange took place. Rather than pursue a separate lawsuit against Toyota, Lee joined the lawsuit launched by other victims of the accident in exchange for forfeiting his right to claim punitive damages. I was puzzled at the time, and remain even more puzzled now that the Recall King - prompted by a jury's guilty verdict in an Oklahoma sudden unintended acceleration case - is rushing to reach a "global settlement" involving all sudden unintended acceleration cases.

Toyota has one whopper of an interest in not allowing juries to determine punitive damages. This was demonstrated in the Oklahoma case when Toyota immediately settled the matter after the guilty verdict was returned. It boils down to millions of dollars worth of "settlement" versus the risk of billions of dollars worth of punitive. The jury in Oklahoma - impressed with expert testimony (not to mention 150 feet of skid marks from the plaintiff's tires) - was fed up with Toyota's shenanigans, stating that Toyota acted with reckless disregard. Not surprising that the Recall King didn't want those folks assessing punitive damages in a death case.

So if the jury in Oklahoma was fed up, wonder what a jury's response would likely be regarding multiple deaths and injuries, and a Toyota driver who wound up in prison for two years before finally being cleared of all charges. A lawsuit from Lee - including the prospect of punitive damages - would have indeed been risky business for the Recall King.

Lee's case had already made headlines due to the horrific nature of the accident. And as Toyota's problems with sudden unintended acceleration continued to draw public attention, an imprisoned Toyota driver claiming that his Camry suddenly sped out of control was an ever increasing liability for the Recall King. Lee has never waivered on that crucial point. Prison isn't pretty - Lee has recurring nightmares - and the specter of a jury one day assessing punitive damages was a ghost to be reckoned with. Lee's case weighed heavily in a D.A.'s decision to drop charges against a Lexus driver.

Lee's case - still not resolved - raises troubling questions. Not only about Toyota (now being allowed to buy its way out of a federal criminal investigation), but about a legal system that imprisons penniless immigrants on trumped up charges, is forced to admit the error, and then protects corporate interests by taking away the right to seek punitive damages.

Something is heinously wrong with this picture.