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Former Toyota attorney says automaker hid safety problems

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Former Toyota attorney says automaker hid safety problems

02/11/2010, 4:51 PMBY MARK KLEIS

In a recent interview, former Toyota attorney Dimitrios Biller claimed that the automaker regularly covered up evidence of safety problems. Biller handled product liability suits for Toyota before leaving the company in 2007.

According to an exclusive interview with ABC News, Biller, a former top attorney for the automaker, the company regularly concealed proof of safety problems, and failed to disclose information that it was legally obligated to produce during litigation.

“You have to understand that Toyota in Japan does not have any respect for our legal system,” said Biller. “They were hiding evidence, concealing evidence, destroying evidence, obstructing justice.”

Biller went on to explain this belief with an anecdote, explaining that as he would prepare information that outlined possible safety issues of Toyota vehicles for plaintiffs his boss would remind him of what he referred to as the “golden rule.” Biller said that when he asked what that rule was, his boss clarified, “Don’t screw with the client [Toyota].”

Biller left Toyota in 2007 with a $4 million severance package – a package that stipulated confidentiality of internal knowledge and any documents Biller may still possess. Biller sued to have the non-disclosure agreement in severance package declared illegal, but an arbitrator recently ruled that the documents will remain sealed until a ruling can be issued on the merits of the case. The arbitrator also denied Toyota’s request that the documents in Biller’s possession be returned to the automaker.

The former attorney that has made these accusations, Dimitrios Biller, has been treated for what are described as “mental issues” that began two years after Biller began working for Toyota. Speaking with the LA Times, Biller said, “There was an onslaught of depression that I sustained while I was at Toyota.” Biller added that he believes his mental health is “much improved” since leaving the automaker.

Toyota speaks out

Responding to the public actions taken by Mr. Biller, Toyota released a statement suggesting that Biller left in 2007 and he wouldn’t have knowledge about current matters. “Mr. Biller continues to make inaccurate and misleading allegations about Toyota’s conduct that we strongly dispute and will continue to fight against vigorously. Toyota takes its legal obligations seriously and works to uphold the highest professional ethical standards.”

Toyota also clarified that Biller did not handle any cases involving unintended acceleration, despite Biller’s claim to the contrary that he handled a case involving a Lexus that demonstrated unintended acceleration in 2005.



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