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It's cheaper if Congress conducts discovery, does the PR

Congressional hearings into Toyota's recalls continue this week, this time on the Senate side as the Senate Commerce Committee meets Tuesday on "Toyota's Recalls and the Government's Response." Last week ended with the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY), attacking the company in terms that could have been written by any one of the personal injury or class action lawyers suing Toyota:

Toyota issued a statement in response to Towns' letter:

Toyota takes its legal obligations seriously and strives to maintain the highest professional and ethical standards in its legal and regulatory practices. It is not uncommon, however, for companies to object to certain demands for documents made in litigation. Consistent with that philosophy, we take appropriate steps to maintain the confidentiality of competitive business information and trade secrets. We are confident that we have acted appropriately with respect to product liability litigation and our discovery practices and look forward to addressing Chairman Towns' concerns.

Henry Payne, the sharp-penned editorial cartoonist and columnist for The Detroit News, has been writing good commentary on the trial lawyer connection at National Review Online. In "The Auto-Tort Circus," Payne reported on the insights of Jason Vines, who was head of public relations for Ford "when it was swallowed by the tort bonfire over Ford SUV rollovers in 2000."

With blood now in the water, says Vines, Toyota is simply too rich a target. The tort sharks will use their their Congressional allies and their public- and press-relations affiliates to extract maximum pain.

"They were putting up bogus documents every day for the drive-by media," recalls Vines of Ford's public ordeal ten years ago. "We called it the daily SCUD missile attack."

More from Payne:

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.