In the model years 2009 and 2010, Toyota’s Corolla has been targeted as a dangerous vehicle because of the electric power steering (ETS) system. In fact, two Toyota Corolla owners, one in New York and one in Pennsylvania, filed suit. The Corolla owners have alleged that the steering system’s defect caused their cars to drift out of control. The lawsuits claim that the steering system defect is a serious safety problem and that Toyota was aware of the problem but did nothing to fix it.
It was alleged in the lawsuit that the defect in the electric power steering system caused a driver to spin out of control on a highway, cross the center line into oncoming traffic before crashing into an embankment. The plaintiffs have alleged that the defect in the electric power steering system is significant and widespread, and they seek to have a class certified by the court.
Toyota, on the other hand, has argued that the court should not allow class certification nationwide because the vehicle shares no common problem. Toyota said the defect in the steering system affects only a small number of Corolla owners. Toyota also said it has reviewed the reports of steering problems and has found that the individual complaints may relate to the way steering feels to them or tire conditions on the particular vehicle.
In 2010, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began an investigation into the ETS system in the Toyota Corolla and Matrix models. In the NHTSA investigation, it says that it found related consumer complaints with operational issues, not failure of the steering system. Accordingly, in May 2011, NHTSA closed its investigation with respect to Toyota’s electric steering system. However, Toyota issued a technical service bulletin to its owners offering to make changes to the steering systems.
The plaintiffs in the Pennsylvania and New York cases contend that the Toyota notice was not properly sent to Toyota consumers and that it was arbitrarily applied. In March 2013, Toyota filed a motion to dismiss the two complaints saying that they lacked specificity. The presiding judge agreed with Toyota and dismissed the claims relating to the technical service bulletins because the plaintiffs failed to show the bulletin extended a warranty to all consumers and represented an adjustment program. More significantly in the judge’s decision, he held that plaintiffs were correct in arguing and maintaining that Toyota had withheld important safety information about the steering defects in the Toyota Corolla. The judge said Toyota’s withholding of that information would have deterred plaintiffs from purchasing the cars had it been released and ultimately the lack of that information caused harm to them.
Not only had Toyota withheld essential safety information, but it also actively concealed the steering defects to Toyota owners and to consumers generally. The presiding judge on these cases held that because consumers had complained about steering defects the automaker knew about the steering problem, but chose not to make a repair procedure known to all affected customers or dealers. Obviously steering defects are a very serious safety risk.
Kreisman Law Offices has been handling automobile defect cases, product liability lawsuits, class action lawsuits and dangerous pharmaceutical defect cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 38 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Naperville, Kenilworth, Calumet City, Harwood Heights, Bedford Park, Bridgeview, Bellwood, Elmhurst, Palos Park, Palos Heights, Palatine, Robbins, Oak Forest, Dolton, Harvey, Riverdale, Blue Island, Alsip, Oak Lawn, Oak Park, Oak Forest and Schaumburg, Ill.
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