New allegations that Toyota withheld emails and electronic records in previous passenger injury cases are causing a top lawmaker to question the car maker's response to complaints of unintended acceleration in its vehicles.
Edolphus Towns, who heads the House Oversight Committee investigation Toyota, said on Friday that a review of documents from a former senior company lawyer indicates that the company withheld documents it was legally required to present by court order.
Many of the documents deal with vehicle rollover cases where passengers were injured and even paralyzed, the committee said in a statement released today.
The documents, Towns said, indicate a systemic disregard for the law and routine violation of court discovery orders on litigation.
This also raises very serious questions as to whether Toyota has also withheld substantial, relevant information from NHTSA (A federal regulator of the industry), he added.
Towns said he has contacted Yoshimi Inaba, the head of Toyota North America, asking him to respond to the documents by noon on March 12.
Inaba testified about unintended acceleration in vehicles before Towns' committee on Wednesday along with Toyota Motor Corp. President and chief executive Akio Toyoda
The documents come from Dimitrios Biller, a top lawyer within the company's U.S. product liability division from April 2003 to September 2007, the committee said.
He was subpoenaed recently by the committee after media reports where he alleged Toyota had made efforts to hide evidence of safety defects from consumers and regulators and fostered a culture of 'hypocrisy and deceit.'
The committee said found references to secret electronic Books of Knowledge containing company design and testing data across all vehicle lines and for all vehicle parts.
The Committee now has evidence that Toyota entered into multi-million dollar settlements in tort cases where they feared that the plaintiff's lawyer was getting close to discovering the existence of the Books of Knowledge, according to a released statement.