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Rick Shapiro
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Toyota Product Scandal: Allegations of Fraud, Obstruction of Justice From Former Attorney

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It’s rare that an insider "whistleblower" risks all by admitting personal knowledge of alleged fraud on courts, obstruction of civil justice and conspiracy. But these and further serious allegations are in a 100 plus page civil Complaint filed in a California state court suit by one of the former top Toyota defense attorneys named Dimitrios Biller-and it’s not in dispute that Biller was one of Toyota’s defense attorneys inside the inner sanctum of the overall coordination of Toyota’s computer files and therefore involved in responses to attorney and court ordered production of relevant documents. The Injuryboard national news desk reported on this Toyota tempest the other day as have a number of my Injuryboard blog colleagues ( Read Toyota Conspiracy to Conceal, Withhold, Destroy Evidence and ).

What is also not in dispute is that Toyota’s attorneys have spent–and are continuing to spend–big money to try to seal up the entire court file-unsuccessfully to date. Biller was paid over 2 million in a severance package and you have to wonder if Toyota was paying part hush money and part severance pay..

This is a big tempest, a tempest that I label as tort reformer nightmare fodder, because it’s not about a frivolous injured person’s suit this time—it’s about Toyota having hundreds of thousands or millions at stake in defending Toyota’s brand against rollover suits around the United States, mainly Toyota car accidents where consumers were seriously injured or killed in car “rollovers” which can involve analysis of roof strength and other product safety issues. In many suits, family’s attorneys have alleged that Toyota knew it had inadequate roof strength and were seeking to discover what Toyota knew about its car (product) quality, testing, and about other similar incidents (OSI’s). Attorneys are moving to reopen cases-which Toyota’s lawyers may have won. Is it losing if an opposing party games the system? Yes, and forever unless a party proves that there was fraud on the court that could not reasonably have been discovered. And just how would a victim’s injury attorney know if Toyota fraudulently concealed its documents and did not produce relevant memos. Biller actually outlines some of the issues in his lengthy complaint which reads like a short novel. And, yes, there is a ton of bad blood between him and his former colleagues. Its blatant they hate each other’s guts. Biller even attached his lengthy memo to his supervisors after he got a poor performance review before his demise. Its replete with references to how he and Toyota played hardball in fighting plaintiff’s injury attorneys but I suppose that stuff is not surprising-they have a business to run and protect. Ethically, that is.

About Attorney Ethics, About Civil Justice, and About A Level Playing Field

There is a bad smell emanating from this sordid affair and no angels are in sight. Toyota issued a news release on its corporate website and between that and their court pleadings they essentially admit Biller was a coordinating defense attorney for its product liability defense outfit, but call him an unstable crackpot in as many words. Toyota claims lawsuits abound where Mr. Biller is involved and there may be something to that, but let’s get back to the point.

Toyota also admits Biller got a multimillion dollar severance package from the co. entity that employed him to coordinate electronic discovery responses and Biller was involved in managing outside attorneys handling the big Toyota cases. That’s a lot of money to pay a blithering fool that Toyota makes Biller out to be. Or, was Toyota concerned about what Biller knew and was it concerned about paying for silence? Toyota says it has done absolutely nothing wrong and claims its all fairy tale stuff.

When massive dollars are on the line—like defending product liability suits with a central coordinating law firm or defense attorneys—there is an effort to maintain central control of the faucet of information turned over. Would there be pressure to hold back documents that straddle the line? Sure. Would there routinely be “privilege” or other objections filed. Sure. But there comes a time—like receiving a court order-where the court may command that the documents be produced that only a defense attorney and the defendant client know about, until its produced. It’s painful complying with the law sometimes! But it’s painful for plaintiff attorneys to have to disclose a prior similar injury for example also. We attorneys do it because we know the law requires compliance.

If Toyota has nothing to hide, why would it seek to “seal” the entire court record? Because Biller might disclose ‘trade secrets”? Oh please. Balderdash.

So I ask again: where is the public outrage over the total disconnect between the wholesome, safety conscious image that Toyota presents in millions of dollars of television advertisements versus these allegations of its former insider? Toyota has on one of its international websites (Australia) a co. code of ethics, and I sure hope Toyota can prove it followed it in the US of A, or else a bunch of injury suits may end up being retried. If Toyota withheld similar incidents or product testing results from courts and juries we are talking “do over’s,” folks. And some of the attorneys at Toyota that determined it would not turn over documents-as Biller alleges-may have some explaining to do. To a judge or a state bar perhaps.

About the Editors: Shapiro, Cooper Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm is based in Virginia (VA), near the NE North Carolina (NC) border and handles car, truck, railroad, and medical negligence cases and more. Check out some of our case results. Our injury attorneys host an extensive injury law video library on Youtube . In addition, our lawyers proudly edit the Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard, and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as a pro bono public information service. Lawyers licensed in: VA, NC, SC, WV, DC, KY.

2 Comments

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  1. Mike Bryant says:
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    The legal implications of this are so broad and really do shake the legal institution to it’s very core. If the massive fraud that is alleged is anywhere close to the truth, something major will have to be done. The worse thing is that there are cases that for many reason may be to long gone, with peoples lives being ruined by the fraud, that they will never see Justice. This one will have to be watched very closely.

  2. Rick Shapiro says:
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    Mike:
    I agree with you and thanks for the comment. There is nothing more serious than when an attorney intentionally fails to comply with a court order to produce relevant items. And the higher the stakes, the higher the temptation for any attorney–but perhaps higher for corporations that fear juries may REALLY PUNISH them for failing to tell the truth, for placing profits over safety, etc.