Toyota Motor Corp. agreed in court to turn over access to technical data about its electronic throttle control system that is alleged to be the cause of some of the automaker’s sudden-acceleration problems.
Lawyers for Toyota told a judge today in federal court in Santa Ana, California, that they will provide attorneys for Toyota vehicle owners access to the “source codes” for the system if the judge issues a confidentiality order covering the company’s product and trade secrets. The source codes have been at the center of disputes between the two sides during the process of pre-trial evidence gathering.
“We have no problem in turning this over providing we have the proper protections in place,” Toyota attorney Vincent Galvin told U.S. District judge James V. Selna.
Galvin said the information already had been turned over to the government before Congress held hearings over Toyota’s problems earlier this year. He said it had not been turned over the plaintiffs yet because pre-trial discovery hadn’t reached the stage in which Toyota was required to do so.
Mark Robinson, one of the lead plaintiffs’ lawyers, told the judge the codes are vital in the case because they will allow experts to analyze the throttle system and come up with their own determination over whether flaws may have been a factor in episodes of inadvertent acceleration.
“We’ve been like someone standing outside a house with a camera taking pictures of the house and knowing what it looks like without knowing what it’s made up of inside,” Robinson told the judge. “We need to analyze this data and see how it related or didn’t relate to the recalls.”
Toyota is facing about 400 lawsuits in which plaintiffs claim they are due damages for injuries, death or loss of vehicle value from sudden acceleration in several models of cars made by Toyota.
The automaker is seeking dismissal of the suits at a hearing scheduled for Nov. 19.
Among Toyota’s defenses over the electronic throttle control system is that the plaintiffs have failed to define a technical problem with the system, according to Toyota court filings. The automaker also argued in court papers that few of the vehicles in question have experienced any sign of sudden, unintended acceleration and few owners have sustained any financial loss.
The cases are combined as In re Toyota Motor Corp. Unintended Acceleration Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation, 8:10-ml-02151, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Santa Ana).