Toyota and its’ executive leadership have had a tough week before a House Subcommittee investigating the nature and impact of what many believe is a serious product defect involving the gas pedal-floormat-electronic accelerator which has led to sudden acceleration of their vehicles. One of the most prominent accidents allegedly arising from this defect was the Santee auto accident which took the lives of California Highway Patrol Officer Saylor and members of the Lastrella family. That accident led to the widespread recall of Toyota floor mats.
As it turns out‚ the federal government’s investigation ignores not only its’ own involvement and complicity in allowing these widespread defects to exist but also its’ clear conflict of interest as the owner of Toyota’s main competitor for glogal automotive dominance: General Motors.
The federal government has long held oversight over a regulatory structure which governs the safety of motor vehicles which use America’s highways. Its’ purpose was to set basic and general safety requirements and manufacturing standards which would apply to all manufacturers. When products were later discovered to fall short of these standards‚ the government agencies and US safety regulators‚ foremost of which is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)‚ would take action including recalling vehicles from the public so that they could receive much needed safety repairs and fixes.
In the case of Toyota‚ though‚ the federal government now appears to have been complicit in aiding and abetting the ongoing existence of dangerous vehicles on the roadways. For approximately a decade‚ the NHTSA has received numerous complaints about sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles. When it became very apparent that a recall would occur‚ the government regulators bowed down in the face of pressure from Toyota who negotiated a more limited recall than the government sought with respect to the floor mats in its’ vehicles. Toyota executives then communicated internally‚ as recently discovered in an internal document‚ that they had got one over on the feds and had saved $100 million for the company.
This reduction of safety concerns to a quantifiable cost is a consistent refrain from manufacturers and‚ in particular‚ automobile manufacturers. The most infamous example was Ford Motor Company’s mathematic formula for determining when and/or if it would recall its’ Pinto line which tended to ignite upon very minor contact.
In addition to the federal government’s complicity‚ a clear conflict of interest now exists with respect to its’ oversight over the auto industry. General Motors‚ the former world’s largest automobile company‚ is now majority owned by the federal government as part of the government’s bailout of the United States automobile industry. How can the federal government be taken seriously and not present serious doubt amongst the public when it investigates a competitor like Toyota? Even more importantly‚ how can the government investigate General Motors now that it is the primary owner? If it did‚ how could anyone take the investigation seriously with such an inherent conflict of interest? In that situation‚ many would argue that the government gave light treatment to General Motors due to its’ ownership just as many now argue that it is treating Toyota‚ a competitor‚ in a heavy handed manner.
The government’s decision to take ownership in the auto industry requires it to largely abdicate its’ oversight role. Who‚ then‚ will hold the auto industry accountable when they put profits ahead of safety? If all the manufacturer cares about is money and profit‚ the importance of plaintiffs’ trial lawyers to obtain civil judgments and even punitive damages against the manufacturer of defective products increases significantly. Reducing the harm and negative effects caused by their defective and dangerous vehicles to monetary damages–and monetary damages that are great enough to be noticed at the company’s bottom line–is one of the last ways to reign in a manufacturer’s dangerous and reckless decision to put a dangerous vehicle into the marketplace.
Date: February 21‚ 2010
Type: Rollover SUV accident
Location: State Route 67 (SR-67) north of Slaughterhouse Canyon Road‚ Lakeside‚ CA
Outcome: Driver killed
A Valley Center man was killed after his SUV rolled over as he was driving on State Route 67 (SR-67) in the Lakeside area of San Diego County. According to the California Highway Patrol‚ the driver drove off the highway north of Slaughterhouse Canyon Road‚ drove onto the soft shoulder‚ and overcorrected when he turned back onto the road. The overcorrecting left turn caused his SUV to rollover at least one full time.
The SUV came to rest on its’ wheels near the center of the four lane road. Although the driver was wearing a seat belt‚ he died when the Jeep’s roof caved in‚ causing him to suffer a massive head injury.
Date: February 20‚ 2010
Type: Auto vs. Pedestrian Accident
Location: Newport Beach‚ Orange County‚ CA
Outcome: Pedestrian Seriously Injured
A Fountain Valley man was left seriously injured when he was struck by a car while crossing the road. The accident took place in Newport Beach. The car was being driven by a 64-year-old Huntington Beach resident. The authorities have ruled out driving under influence as the cause for this pedestrian accident.
While it is unclear if the driver’s age could have contributed to causing this accident‚ it has to be said that driving in old age is potentially very dangerous‚ not only for the elderly driver but also for fellow drivers and pedestrians. Thought has to be given to the danger posed by senior citizens driving when they perhaps should not.
A Virginia judge recently ruled that an attorney blog about eight currently pending wrongful death case did not need to be removed or deleted‚ despite the challenge by the wrongful death defendant‚ a Virginia hospital‚ who brought a Virginia State Bar complaint and an emergency motion before the court to have case documents removed from the plaintiff’s attorney’s blog.
The hospital‚ Sentara Hospitals‚ did not want certain facts about the wrongful death case to become public. However‚ the hospital had created an incident report which contained these facts and turned over the incident report to plaintiff’s lawyer. The lawyer‚ Avery Waterman‚ of Newport News‚ Virginia‚ blog about the case and the facts contained in the incident report.
The court ruled that the blog post could stand in that the attorney was free to post whatever you wanted regarding a case here in the court declined to make any judgment whether the post violated the attorney’s ethical or professional conduct.
You can read the entire opinion from the court on Virginia medical malpractice attorney Ben Glass’s website.
Date: February 16‚ 2010
Type: Pedestrian struck by car
Location: Southwood Intersection‚ Irvine‚ California
Outcome: Pedestrian injured
A 21-year old woman was seriously injured after being struck by a car while crossing an Irvine intersection. The Orange County pedestrian accident occurred just before 8:30 a.m.‚ when a 2000 Nissan Maxima traveling southbound on Yale hit the woman as she walked across the Southwood intersection.
The injured woman was treated at the scene‚ before being taken to a nearby hospital. Police have not identified the woman or the male driver‚ both of whom are Irvine residents. Authorities are also yet to determine the cause of the accident‚ which is still under investigation.
Date: February 15‚ 2010
Type: Car vs. Pedestrian
Location: North Park‚ San Diego
Outcome: Boy Injured‚ Hospitalized
A 9-year-old boy was left injured when he ran out into an alley and got struck by a 2005 Acura that was going at a speed of 10-15 miles per hour. The accident took place in the west alley of the 4100 block of Arizona around 5 p.m. The boy sustained two open leg fractures and is currently hospitalized.
Date: February 15‚ 2010
Type: Motorcycle accident
Location: Rest Area Parking Lot beside the Westbound Lanes of Interstate 10‚ a Mile West of Whitewater Cutoff Road
Outcome: Motorcyclist killed
A 47-year-old Calimesa motorcyclist lost his life after he hit a curb and wrecked his 2006 Harley Davidson. Gene Gomez had pulled into a freeway rest area near Whitewater when he crashed‚ according to Riverside County Coroner’s Officials. Gomez died at the scene of the 2:10 p.m. accident. The crash was witnessed by his brother who was following on another motorcycle.