| Added On April 29, 2010
In the last year, Toyota Motor Corporation has issued voluntary recalls on over 8 million of its vehicles worldwide and the number continues to climb. The first recall covering over four million vehicles was announced late last year and came after numerous complaints were filed with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration regarding unintended acceleration problems. The complaints – some dating back years – all complained of Toyota manufactured vehicles that accelerated without warning or that could not be stopped by pushing the brake. The final push for Toyota to issue the recall came when a family of four was killed in a Toyota manufactured Lexus SUV that accelerated out of control causing the death of all four occupants. That recall became known as the “accelerator entrapment” recall. The next recall was announced in January and covered 2.3 million vehicles for similar issues. This recall, however, was blamed on a defect in the pedal itself and became known as the “sticky pedal” recall. Another recall was issued in February and two more have been announced just this month.
The fine that was ordered this month by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) comes after an investigation initiated by the USDOT as to whether Toyota addressed the potential defects in its vehicles in a timely manner as required under United States law. The conclusion of the investigation was that Toyota did NOT notify regulators and consumers as quickly as required under the law. U.S. laws regarding defective products have numerous requirements for what a company must do in the event of a defective product. In essence, the company must make all efforts to investigate a potential defect, must report the defect to U.S. regulators, must notify consumers and must repair, replace of refund the product.
The fine that was issued by the USDOT this month is based on their conclusion that for the defects covered in the January recall of 2.3 million vehicles Toyota did not notify the proper authorities or consumers in a timely manner. The fine amount of $16.4 million was the limit allowed under current United States laws. In other words, authorities were not permitted, under the law, to order a fine greater than the $16.4 million. Had a cap not been in place for the maximum fine that a single manufacturer can face, the total fine could have reached over $13 billion. Absent the cap, the law allows a fine of $6000 per vehicle covered in the recall. In reality, $16.4 million dollars for a corporation that has annual sales in the billions isn’t as stiff of a fine as it initially sounds. While authorities were not able to fine Toyota more than the $16.4 million for the January recall, they could issue more fines based on other recalls. Reports are that they are looking into the first recall to decide whether Toyota violated any notice laws and requirements during that recall. If so, another fine could be forthcoming for the giant automaker.
If you have been personally affected by the Toyota recalls and would like further information regarding your legal options, please feel free to call California Toyota recall attorney Emery Ledger at his law firm Ledger & Associates. He can be reached at 1-800-300-0001 or you may contact him through his website at 1-800-300-0001.