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Plaintiffs' lawyer lies about Toyota



So: an anonymous blog quotes an unnamed NHTSA official saying that Toyota "planted" the WSJ story showing that NHTSA testing revealed that driver error was behind the reports of sudden acceleration.

Let's assume that the story is true: heaven forfend that Toyota tell the press that evidence exonerates it. Note that the unnamed NHTSA spokesperson doesn't say that the WSJ story is false. She even says that NHTSA knew the Journal was going to run the story. So where's the scandal? Toyota isn't allowed to talk to the press?

Nevertheless, we have a Missouri plaintiffs lawyer attacking me for previously linking to the WSJ story. He claims (without any evidence) that Toyota misled the public, but the report he links to doesn't say that. And he has now imagined "hundreds" of deaths from Toyota "sudden acceleration"—when there aren't even hundreds of fatal accident reports to NHTSA of sudden acceleration (keeping in mind that any plaintiffs' lawyer can make an accident report to NHTSA accusing a vehicle of sudden acceleration). Once again we have plaintiffs' lawyers acting as if it is problematic for a defendant to defend itself when it is being lied about in a smear campaign. Accord Jalopnik.

Without any evidence that the Wall Street Journal story is false (and plenty of empirical evidence that it is true) I see nothing to apologize for. Mr. Brett Emison, however, is in a different position, as he goes out on a limb to make multiple false statements. Assuming no political interference (a not especially-safe assumption in the Obama administration, which has repeatedly politicized science when it served its purposes), don't be surprised when the NHTSA report says exactly what the Journal reported it will.

Update, July 17: Mr. Emison repeats his lie. Recall that he accused sudden acceleration of causing "hundreds" of deaths. He now acknowledges (though doesn't correct his earlier exaggeration) that the maximum accusation is 102—but continues to claim it as "more than 100 deaths reported as caused by sudden acceleration." This is wrong on two counts. First, the 102 number includes the four deaths from the idiosyncratic San Diego floor-mat incident—and as tragic and avoidable as that accident was, it was not caused by an electronic defect. (Amazingly, Emison even makes reference to the San Diego incident in his post, so he knows he's exaggerating.) Second, Mr. Emison is relying entirely on complaints to NHTSA (often made by plaintiffs' lawyers with self-serving falsehoods) to get to the 102 number, so the correct number is zero: there are more than 100 deaths where someone has made a claim of sudden acceleration, but zero where there is credible evidence of sudden acceleration from an electronic defect being the cause.

There are a number of class actions pending where trial lawyers accuse Toyota of causing "economic harm" to Toyota owners because of the reduction in Bluebook value in the wake of the sudden acceleration reporting. Ironically, the entirety of the economic damage is the result of the false hysteria whipped up by dishonest lawyers, either deliberately or with reckless disregard for the truth. If the lawyers in question were truly adequate representatives of the class of Toyota owners, they would be suing themselves.

Ironically, Toyota, even when one includes the 102 deaths in controversy, has one of the best safety records on the road. The hysteria over lawyer-invented claims of sudden acceleration have likely caused many purchasers to switch to less safe vehicles where they have a greater chance of dying in a fatal accident. The phony scandal ginned up by trial lawyers will, at the end of the day, have killed more people than the imaginary electronic defect. Remember: trial lawyer lies don't just steal, they kill. Just another example of trial lawyers putting profits ahead of people.

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Isaac Gorodetski
Project Manager,
Center for Legal Policy at the
Manhattan Institute
igorodetski@manhattan-institute.org

Katherine Lazarski
Press Officer,
Manhattan Institute
klazarski@manhattan-institute.org

 

Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.