Toyota Racketeering Lawsuit Filed By Former Toyota Attorney

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Dimitrious P. Biller, former managing counsel for Toyota’s National Rollover Program, has filed a lawsuit against Toyota alleging a conspiracy to hide evidence in numerous roll-over lawsuits. Specifically, Biller alleges that Toyota withheld data regarding vehicle roof strength in a series of lawsuits he oversaw between 2003 and 2007. This conspiracy, if proven to be legitimate, would fall under the general category of “racketeering.”

Story Update December 2009

When Biller made his claims earlier this year, many attorneys asked to re-open previous rollover lawsuits against Toyota. However, after reviewing Biller’s conspiracy evidence, an independent attorney in Texas decided not to re-open 17 rollover cases he had previously pursued.

According to Texas attorney E. Todd Tracy, who represents victims in 17 Toyota rollover cases, “It’s my belief, after reviewing these documents, that the evidence [presented by Biller] will not assist my suits…I’m disappointed beyond belief.” (link)

This information seems to support the conclusion that Biller’s lawsuit against Toyota is frivolous.

Original Story Continued…

Biller, a former Toyota employee, has an interesting past. In addition to helping Toyota successfully litigate a dozen rollover lawsuits, Biller also represented Ford Motor Company in a series of product liability lawsuits in the early-to-mid 90’s. According to his website, Biller is an experienced attorney in the realm of product liability who has made a living representing big companies.

Former Toyota attorney Biller alleges a Toyota conspiracy to hide vehicle roof data

Former Toyota attorney Biller alleges a Toyota conspiracy to hide vehicle roof data

According to the CBS report, Biller’s tenure with Toyota ended when he attempted to “blow the whistle” on Toyota’s alleged practice of withholding and destroying vehicle roof strength data. CBS states “resulting conflicts [at Toyota] ultimately caused Biller to suffer a mental breakdown and led to his forced resignation in September 2007. He left with a $3.7 million severance agreement, court records show.”

Really? The guy who made a small fortune representing big companies in product liability cases tried to blow the whistle on a conspiracy, and in the process suffered a self-admitted mental breakdown? Seems sort of suspicious…especially when you see his letter of recommendation from Chris Reynolds, Toyota Motor Sales USA VP and General Counsel (found on Biller’s website).

[Sidebar: Chris Reynolds is also named in the lawsuit. Guess that letter of recommendation wasn’t appreciated.]

Still, it’s certainly possible that Toyota forced Biller out. In an article about Biller from the May 2001 issue of California Lawyer, Biller was referred to as “the kind of person that if he smells a rat, he will not let them wiggle away.” (Found on Biller’s website.) This would seem to support the idea that he’s the whistle-blowing type.

Skip ahead to July 24th, 2009, when Biller filed a lawsuit against Toyota (and others) alleging a conspiracy to withhold data regarding vehicle roof strength. Biller’s lawsuit alleges a “ruthless conspiracy [to keep evidence] of its vehicles’ structural shortcomings from becoming known.”

In a statement made to CBS News, Toyota:

  • Denies the allegations and label’s them “inaccurate and misleading”
  • States that Biller’s legal filing includes privileged information that Biller has no right to divulge
  • Requests that all legal records are sealed in order to protect privileged and confidential information

At this point, we are not able to access the legal filing. The CBS report had a link to a PDF, but that link is currently broken (possible as a result of Toyota’s request for sealed records). We’ll keep working over the weekend to get our hands on the document.

Here’s the chronology:

April 15th, 2003: Biller joins Toyota as National Managing Counsel for Toyota’s Rollover program.

2003-2007: Biller represents Toyota in one dozen roll-over liability cases, winning each one and saving Toyota millions.

September 17th, 2007: Biller resigns from Toyota. In the lawsuit he filed nearly 2 years later, Biller alleges that he was forced out and suffered a mental breakdown as a result.

April 3rd, 2008: Biller receives a letter of recommendation from Chris Reynolds, VP and General Legal Counsel at Toyota Motor Sales USA.

September 11th, 2008: Biller registers, a website for what appears to be his private practice.

July 24th, 2009: Biller files conspiracy lawsuit against Toyota.

August 31st, 2009: California judge seals all the evidence of a conspiracy that was presented by Biller.

December 28th, 2009: A Texas attorney representing 17 Toyota rollover cases declines to re-open any of his lawsuits after reviewing Biller’s evidence. This would seem to be a vote of no-confidence in Biller’s claims.

Here are the obvious questions:

1. If Biller believes a conspiracy existed, why did he wait nearly 2 years to file a lawsuit? Did he learn of the conspiracy after he left Toyota?

2. Why would Toyota offer Biller a letter of recommendation 6 months after he resigned?

3. What if Biller is right? Rollover problems cost Ford billions in 2001. If these allegations are true, this would be a major blow to Toyota’s reputation.

We’ll keep you posted on any developments. Please comment below if you know anything, if you have a link, or if you’d like to share your opinion.

Filed Under: Auto News


RSSComments (13)

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  1. Jeremy the Dark Dork says:

    THIS could be the most interesting story of 09.

    If memory serves, Fords problems were linked back to bad tire pressure recommendations and crappy tires. I think they FIREed the STONEr who put the TIREs on the trucks,,,if you get my drift.

    The lawyer smells fishy. Not Tuna fishy like normal lawyers, Pogee Fishy smelling. But in the law professions defence, The system is greasy so the people in it have to be grease balls too function in it. Saddest point in that is We have the best legal system in the world. Tell me if that doesn’t make you very happy and nauseous at the same time. BUt I digest and digress.

    Did Toyota suppress data? Probably. That is how the real world functions. Suppress what is damaging and promote that which strengthens. Is it right? No, but that is how it is played on the Blue Green planet. IF Toyota suppressed data and did nothing to remedy the issue I will be disappointed.

    Back to the smelly lawyer, I have to say that MAYBE business was slow and he needed some more business and free advertisement so lets sue Toyota.

    Everyone brace to the Inbred Troll parade. They are coming, I can hear their knuckles dragging the ground. We are going to be bizzions of “toyota is crap”, “Toyota wants to eat your children”, and “Toyota caused Global warming and my hang nail”

    Just wait for it, I feel a disturbance in the Force and this time it isn’t gas. I think.

  2. mk says:

    Sounds to me this guy is two-faced and only wants to make his money and doesn not give a rats _ss about anyone else but himself. I too look out for myself, but I can make it without making millions in lawsuits and being a turncoat on the employer who hired you in the first place. I once worked for a major US non-profit organization highly respected all over the world and found out (actually I was made to do it by my Accounting Supervisor) to pay hush money (I had to cut a check) to avoid a lawsuit/scandal with a former lady employee whom was worthless to the company in the first place and the allegations were probably completely false in the first place knowing the lady. So, instead of ratting out and going to the press, I quit because I have enough morales to know when to not work for a supervisor who will not tell me the truth of what is going on. This is the problem, very few people higher up making the big bucks give a _hit about anyone else but saving their own _ss. Besides, making what I was making in a non-profit organization and paying day-care for 2 kids at the time was almost like not taking home a paycheck in the first place dealing with B.S. like this.

  3. TXTee says:

    The lawyer sounds a bit sleazy and untrusted. The whole mental breakdown sounds rather awkward as well. I would like to hear/see more evidence before calling judgement on Biller or Toyota, though. I do believe that often companies conceal problems with their products as well so I’m not ready to take sides yet.

  4. I agree with all the comments here – it’s too early to tell, but the lawyer isn’t exactly “Erin Brokovich.”

  5. Brendan says:

    Sounds like a revenge scheme to me. I mean I’ll admit it could be true that there was some weaknesses in the vehicles Toyota made, I highly doubt Toyota tried to conceal such a thing as this, considering that they do recalls for really little issues that most manufacturers would be OK with letting them be. This guy is just using his access to private information and former position to get revenge.
    He’s got his work cut out for him though, and if he wins…then props, cuz I’m sure Toyota’s got a pretty good team of Lawyers they replaced him with LOL.

  6. Brendan – That’s my read too, but it’s just too early to say for sure. He’s not the ideal candidate to blow the whistle, but he WOULD have had the opportunity to see the conspiracy in action…so it’s possible. We’ll follow it and see what happens.

  7. TXTee says:

    Brendan made a great point. Toyota does send the most trivial (or so it seems) recalls. I had one for the Highlander’s floor mat retaining clip. I can only assume they don’t want to be at fault for a mat sliding under the pedals and causing an accident due to inability to brake. Either way, I do hate frivolous or unnecessary litigation because in the end it becomes a consumer cost.

  8. John Hart says:

    I read with interest about the Toyota conspiracy to hide safety related data on rollovers, if this had been GM, Ford or Chrysler it would have been all over the national news.

  9. John – I have to agree – it shocks me that this story isn’t bigger. This has got “crisis” written all over it, yet the national news is ignoring it.

  10. Mickey says:

    Reason for National news ignoring it is a good possibility that the sleezeball lawyer is wrong. He used inside info to do this. While he worked there he using what he can while he was there. Most likely secrets that Toyota doesn’t reveal. How can you trust this guy when he made a living of protecting the manufacturer’s and now he wants to sue one. I don’t see much happening here.

  11. I’ve got an update on this story soon.

  12. Mark B. Morrow says:

    It is early in the process, but it bears noting that Biller has put his legal career on the line. He had better be right and able to prove his claims. OTOH he probably knows where all the bodies are buried. BTW Jeremy TDD, the “way the world works” doesn’t apply to an attorneys duty to the Court to act with honesty and candor. The discovery rules expressly forbid supressing documents subject to a discovery request. If documents are claimed to be subject to privilege that must be disclosed to the Court for a ruling on a request for protective order. If there were executives involved in hiding data, someone could find themselves goint to jail.

    Yep, I’m a lawyer who used to practice in products laibility cases.

  13. Mark – Thanks for commenting – I agree that Biller put his career on the line with this move, so you have to think he’s got Toyota over a barrel or he’s decided to retire.

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