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Report: Preliminary round ruling against Toyota says safety evidence was hidden

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Report: Preliminary round ruling against Toyota says safety evidence was hidden

by Zach Bowman (RSS feed) on Sep 15th 2010 at 2:33PM

Toyota has run into some trouble in a lawsuit against a former employee. An independent arbitrator has found that the automaker can't bar the release of certain documents by claiming attorney-client privilege in a countersuit by Dimitrios Biller.

Biller served as legal counsel to Toyota for four years from 2003 until 2007. When he resigned from the company, he was given a $3.7 million severance package, but last year was sued by Toyota for $33.5 million for taking internal documents and breaking the terms of his deal.

Biller turned around and countersued, and Toyota immediately attempted to use attorney-client privilege to keep Biller from releasing potentially incriminating documents. But on September 9, a retired federal judge found that Biller has enough evidence to show that Toyota hired a lawyer to hide or destroy some of the company's safety records in an attempt to keep that information from vehicle owners injured in rollover accidents. In some cases, that information could have led to significantly higher settlements.

That lawyer was none other than Biller himself, who turned over 170 documents, including emails he sent that advised the company that settling cases early would be worth not having to turn over "books of knowledge" on the Toyota vehicle safety record.



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