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Toyota uses questionable legal tactics, AP investigation shows

35 Comments
By Danny Robbins

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Good luck in regaining your world market dominance, toyota.

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I'm completely shocked at these allegations. Everyone who has lived in Japan for more than a month or so knows how forthcoming Japanese companies are with potentially damaging information. Sarcasm aside, Toyota needs to really take a hard look at its corporate culture if it is going to continue to succeed in a global market. The level of secrecy that is acceptable here in Japan is not in most other countries. I fear they are going to find that out the hard way in the numerous legal fights they are going to have in the next few months and years.

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“They’ve used the Pacific Ocean as a great defense to producing documents,” said Graham Esdale, a lawyer in Montgomery, Alabama, who has sued Toyota. “If Ford or General Motors tells you something and you don’t believe that it’s right, you can get a court order to go get access to the documents instead of relying on them. We can just go there and start poring through documents. We don’t have that with the Japanese manufacturers.” Why? Should be the first thing required to do business in another country.

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So let me get this straight....

This "investigation" seems to amount to them talking to a bunch of litigation attorneys - most of which have met with failure when suing Toyota ???

Pot calling the kettle black ??????????? Sour Grapes ???????????

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Fredster - so what is your point? The rules of evidence/discovery apply to all companies equally. Who would better know how Toyota handles these kinds of issues than someone who has tangled with them? Should they have taken Toyota's word for it, like a good Japanese reporter would have? It's called reporting/investigative journalism.

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Maybe it's time for restrictions to be applied to Toyota's operations in the USA? They need lawyers and other investigators crawling up every orifice investigating their operations, which are it seems being run according to Japanese corporate (i.e. corrupt) standards. Every time a fault is found, hammer them with fines and business closures. The only thing the Japanese will EVER understand is MONEY!

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The only "questionable legal tactics" I now of at Toyota is their tendency to settle many of these lawsuits out of court once the prosecuters start getting too close to gaining info from the "black box" that is installed in all Toyotas. Sounds to me like the meat of this story clearly accuses Toyota of doing just the opposite- illegal tactics- by not providing the data or additional information when requested by judges or lawyers as required by law. Seems to me it is up to the Judges to insist on compliance or face contempt charges- why blame Toyota ?

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Fredster's correct. This "AP investigation" doesn't so much reveal that Toyota is shifty when it comes to defending itself from lawsuits as it shows that AP knows how to get the most damaging information possible from a niche of lawyers on the losing side of lawsuit bids to talk about why they think they lost. I would like to see AP's data regarding successful lawsuits against Toyota to be able to form a more informed opinion. Ultimately, what we're left here with is a lot of "He said. She said." That's not exactly evidence.

As the writer points out towards the end of the article:

"Attorneys who regularly defend corporate clients say it’s common for plaintiffs’ lawyers to complain they are not receiving the information they need and that Toyota’s tactics do not necessarily indicate nefarious intent. It’s always a battle in these big cases between plaintiffs and corporations as to what documents they have and whether or not they produce everything they should have,” said Matthew Cairns, president-elect of the 22,500-member DRI-Voice of the Defense Bar group of civil defense attorneys. “Plaintiffs always try to get more, hoping to find something. It’s for the court to ultimately resolve who is right."

That sort of sums up everything.

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What corporations out there DON'T use "questionable" legal tactics?

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". . .questionable, evasive and deceptive legal tactics when sued." ". . .hidden the existence of tests that would be harmful to its legal position" ". . .claimed key material was difficult to get" ". . . withheld potentially damaging documents" ". . .dragging it out as long as possible”

As if the same couldn't be said for all those morally upright tobacco companies and pharmaceutical companies?

This is a witch hunt that would make ole McCarthy himself proud. Not saying that Toyota is completely innocent; just saying that what they are in fact guilty of is of being a 'company'. Please refer to http://www.thecorporation.com/

But hey, at least it takes America's mind off its 'own' (ie GM, Ford) pathetic auto industry. (oops, well there is the small fact that Toyota is a major employer in America and that a large percentage of their U.S. sold cars are made in America. Oh well.)

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"This is a witch hunt that would make ole McCarthy himself proud. Not saying that Toyota is completely innocent"

OK- so it's not a witch hunt !

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I think its pretty clear AP has found that Toyota clearly withheld info saying it didnt exist when it did, too bad investigating & action like this will never happen in Jpn.

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witch hunt or not, I certainly think a foreign company doing business in the US should be forced to be forthright in handing documents over. Especially when Americans are being killed or injured due to malfunctions.

Witch hunt or not, Toyota needs to realize the cheap tricks they use in Japan to get off the hook don't work over there.

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Maybe it's time for the U.S. courts to stop being Mickey Mouse courts? You would imagine failure to produce documents when demanded would get the judges riled up and the prosecutors flipping out at the arrogance of Toyota.

That's a pretty incompetent system right there, folks.

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Debucho; Interesting points-

"I certainly think a foreign company doing business in the US should be forced to be forthright in handing documents over."

I agree ! The problem with Toyota though is that they've tried to convince the American public that they are not "foreign" ! Thanks for the reminder !

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Maybe it's time for the U.S. courts to stop being Mickey Mouse courts?

The US works alot on "self policing" in these matters. However, you are found to break the self policing rules, an example will be made of you. As I am sure Toyota is about to find out.

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"You would imagine failure to produce documents when demanded would get the judges riled up and the prosecutors flipping out at the arrogance of Toyota."

Hardly ! As I mentioned before Toyota has a tendency to settle out of court- subsequently these demands for documents become null and void. In this manner Toyota has avoided revealing any of it's in-house secrets- until now ! Prepare yerselves for some shocking revelations people. There are some ugly skeletons in Toyota's closets !

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Consumer Rights are so much weaker in Japan, as compared with the US. Here a consumer is God as long as he is buying a thing. After that, he looses his position and is downgraded to a 1 year gurantee; that is it! What we see here is a conflict of two different business environments. Toyota should have been wise enough to allow its US branch manage their own business policies rather than taking orders from their Japan office.

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We are talking about the same AP that files one lawsuit after another?

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Toyota has routinely engaged in questionable, evasive and deceptive legal tactics when sued, frequently claiming it does not have information it is required to turn over and sometimes even ignoring court orders to produce key documents, an Associated Press investigation shows.

Sounds like Toyota is getting sued quite often.

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"Sounds like Toyota is getting sued quite often."

Yeah, in a country like the US where lawsuits are more common than anywhere else in the world I can imagine that AP loves to jump on Toyota. Then again, the rest of world takes American lawsuits with a grain of salt. And the reliability of AP with a BIG grain of salt.

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The article is 27 paragraphs long. Paragraphs 24 and 25 pretty well explain why the rest of the article is not news.

AP wants to waste our time and then say "Thanks for reading!"

Forbes has an article on Yahoo News about THE WORST MADE CARS ON THE ROAD. Have a read, everybody. They really pin Toyota to the wall in that article and tell it like it is. They also give Detroit their due. Don't read it if you are a Toyota fan, because it is scathing. Just brutal.

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"We are talking about the same AP that files one lawsuit after another?"

Gee, I don't want to seem to critical here but isn't "the AP" the "Associated Press" ? And arent they a journalistic group that not only reports the news but also investigates it ?

"Then again, the rest of world takes American lawsuits with a grain of salt. And the reliability of AP with a BIG grain of salt."

Some do- some don't. Considering the vast number of AP stories found here, I'm leaning towards the latter.I found this whole section to be an eyeopener- "Additional related lawsuits examined in the AP review found"- there's some quality reporting there, kudos to "The Press".

"Forbes has an article on Yahoo News about THE WORST MADE CARS ON THE ROAD. Have a read, everybody. They really pin Toyota to the wall in that article and tell it like it is. They also give Detroit their due."

Now here's something to take with a big grain of salt- more media pundits trying to tell you about the "worst made cars"- the same intellectuals that sold Americans and the rest of the planet on defective Toyotas for dozens of years- actually coming back for more ??? Ahhh, fool me once, shame on you- fool me twice, thrice ? Thanks for the laugh 5speedracer5.

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Possibly the quality of the client's case against Toyota is not as strong as it was earlier. When the case was first presented to the lawyer the case looked good. At the time, the lawyer was anxious to help you. Now that the trial is approaching the case has major problems or it looks weak here or there. The opponents case which was formally really just a frivolous case is now much stronger.

Unfortunately, lawyers are just as strongly drawn away from going to trial. A trial means intense preparation: deposing opposing witnesses, coaching witnesses about there testimony, preparing opening and closing statements, going through jury preparation, preparing briefs on the points of law involved, etc.

The revelation that the cost of going to trial will be substantially higher than what was originally planned. Suddenly the economics of the lawsuit are changed completely. Large amounts of additional money have to be raised. The icing on this cake is the lawyer's demand that the additional money be paid before trial. This puts additional pressure on the client to settle or else. This is the reason a high percentage of their clients settle their cases.

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"I certainly think a foreign company doing business in the US should be forced to be forthright in handing documents over. Especially when Americans are being killed or injured due to malfunctions."

He goes on to say . . .

"I mean, hey, it's totally cool if it's American companies killing Americans, because, well, they're 'Merican!"

"Toyota needs to realize the cheap tricks they use in Japan to get off the hook don't work over there."

LOL! You mean unlike the inspirational and complete forthrightness of companies like WorldCom, Ford, Enron, and AIG?

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Branded,

"As I mentioned before Toyota has a tendency to settle out of court . . . "

As do the vast majority of lawsuits involving large corporations in America and around the world. But if you were to include that fact in your musings, it wouldn't make Toyota look as sinister, now, would it?

" . . . the same intellectuals that . . . "

Man, if it isn't enough to have to wade through the xenophobic bile that flavors every attack you make on Toyota, now we've got to deal with your newly revealed beef with so-called "intellectuals"? Forbes isn't what most would consider a bastion of intellectual thought, like, say, the Harvard Review. Most people simply think of it as a, well, financial publication.

Apparently, fooling you isn't as hard as you seem to think, considering how readily you bellied up to the "I hate Toyota" table, despite the copious portions of hypocrisy, inconsistency, and conflict of interest standing between you and a thoroughly biased conclusion that Toyota is wrong.

Meanwhile, still nothing on what the root of this supposed defect is, despite the best efforts of researchers (and trial lawyers) across the country to recreate the reported problem. How can that be?

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LFRagain- you are more than free to disagree with me, however I don't see the need for the personal attacks- they only lower the quality of your posts. Moving on, On Toyota's tendency to settle out of court you state;

"As do the vast majority of lawsuits involving large corporations in America and around the world."

The difference with Toyota, as has been documented by the AP here, is that Toyota will start to settle once the plaintiffs lawyers start honing in on the black boxes installed in all Toyotas. You will find these boxes to be of major importance in the upcoming lawsuits- and this time Toyota will have to crack them open and reveal what the problems really are. There is another poster here discussing the similarities between Toyotas electronics and Frances Airbus. Both use black box technology and I sense you are going to more similarities than just that ! I'll hold off on labeling Toyota "sinister" till that day comes.

As for the rest of your attack-

"the copious portions of hypocrisy, inconsistency, and conflict of interest standing between you and a thoroughly biased conclusion that Toyota is wrong."

Lets just let this play out in the courts shall we- then we'll see just who has been engaged in "copious portions of hypocrisy, inconsistency, and conflict of interest" ! I dare say to date- it sure as hell aint me ! At least not according to Toyota executives like Akio Toyoda, who has already admitted guilt in a variety of areas. And the e-mails from Irv Miller are nothing short of smoking guns that have plaintiff lawyers chomping at the bit. Sorry lfragain, you seem to be backing the wrong horse here and you want to lash out at me- a bit childish don't ya think ? I for one will not retaliate with a barrage of accusations against your character- I'll just wait for another day of revelations as Toyota finally gets its just desserts- Oh and btw- I see where Toyota stock is down again- hovering around $78 now. Probably has something to do with the latest report from Consumer Reports about more rollover problems. Ahhh, "How can that be?"

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"The difference with Toyota . . . "

There's nothing different about it. Any corporation under threat of a potentially large payout due to lawsuit will seek to settle if a case looks unwinnable. Again, another one of your painfully transparent – but failed -- attempts to paint Toyota as somehow “foreign” or “different,” ergo “wrong.”

"I'll hold off on labeling Toyota "sinister" till that day comes."

That train left the station the day you started posting on this Toyota affair. No point in trying to backtrack now and feign concerned objectiveness.

"we'll see just who has been engaged in "copious portions of hypocrisy, inconsistency, and conflict of interest" . . . according to Toyota executives like Akio Toyoda, who has already admitted guilt . . . And the e-mails from Irv Miller are nothing short of smoking guns"

Apparently, you think the meaning of words like "hypocrisy" and "guilt" are interchangeable and mean the same thing. They don't. Invest in a dictionary.

Ignoring the hypocrisy of lambasting Toyota for things that Ford gets a free pass on, ignoring the inconsistencies in a NHTSA that seeks to distance itself from a defect problem that it was tasked with uncovering -- again, with a free pass from interested parties -- and the conflict of interest inherent in a government in ownership of one of Toyota's direct competitors pressing legal action against Toyota -- ignoring all of these things doesn't make the reality magically go away. Unfair bias is at work in this pursuit to see Toyota punished and it’s led by voices like yours.

As for personal attacks, quite frankly, the willful lack of objectivity in your constant attacks on Toyota do more to demonstrate what you're made of than anything I could add. You should be more concerned with that than with imagined persecution.

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lfragain- more focus on the topic and less on other posters would probably help avoid these embarrsing statements;

"another one of your painfully transparent – but failed -- attempts to paint Toyota as somehow “foreign”

Err, Toyota is being rightfully referred to as a "Japanese" company by the mainstream media here in the USA- they are a foreign entity !

"Apparently, you think..."

No "apparantly" about any of my statements- I say exactly what I think ! And I think "Ford" has nothing to do with Toyota's miseries- no connection whatsoever- so why the off topic remark- and why is it allowed to remain posted ? Ahh, another mystery. You'd do better by reflecting on any one of the "additional related lawsuits" before going on and on in defense of Toyota, described as a "murderous corporation" by Mark Geragos. Hmmm, care to opine on the "willful lack of objectivity" and these "constant attacks on Toyota" by thousands of others ? Now excuse me, I see where the attacks are continuing- this time from Consumer Reports who have just slapped a "Don't Buy" label on one of Toyotas prize brands- the Lexus !

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Branded,

"more focus on the topic and less on other posters would probably . . ."

Wow. Again with the persecution complex. That was only a step shy of openly begging me to stop picking on you.

Here’s how it works: You post something I disagree with, and I let you know I disagree and why. That’s how it happens in the real world. The fire-and-forget fantasy that you apparently wish Internet comment boards to be are reserved only for Internet Trolls. You aren’t a Troll, are you?

" . . . I think "Ford" has nothing to do with Toyota's miseries- no connection whatsoever- so why the off topic remark- and why is it allowed to remain posted ?"

My point about Ford probably still stands, as it has on any other thread dealing with the backlash against Toyota, because it's relevant, regardless of what you think. Ford did indeed seek to correct defects in its Hybrid brake systems via the same "volunteer service" backdoor you and others labeled as "sneaky," when Toyota did so to address what it suspected might be a software glitch in its fuel system software. Toyota gets read the riot act for not proactively issuing a recall notice for a what ultimately turned into a fatal defect, and Ford gets . . . well . . . nothing in the way of recrimination for the way it quietly handed its faulty Hybrid braking systems. Again, hypocrisy in a climate in which Toyota is being singled out as “murderous” for doing pretty much what every other major corporation in America does on a daily basis.

Speaking of which . . .

“. . . described as a "murderous corporation" by Mark Geragos. . .

Mark Geragos?!? You mean Mark “I scored a $900,000 settlement for two idiots who taunted tigers as the San Diego zoo and almost got killed for it” Geragos?! LOL! You’ve got to be kidding. That’s like throwing down a Tobacco Institute study to refute the dangers of smoking.

“Hmmm, care to opine on the "willful lack of objectivity" and these "constant attacks on Toyota" by thousands of others ?”

Money. You’ve harped on that point ad nauseum. It’s all about the money to be gained from class action lawsuits. I think Mr. Geragos looks to receive up to 30% of any settlement.

Meanwhile, you seem to trust Consumer Reports more than Forbes, so I would expect you’d appreciate the Consumer Reports article that reveals that over the course of 10 years and over 300 thousand official defect complaints received by the NHTSA, only 2000, or rather 0.6%, of them involved sudden acceleration problems with Toyotas.

Or the fact that despite the sudden acceleration problem that has led Toyota to suspend sales of some of its most popular models, Consumer Reports continues to recommend Toyota as a quality brand?

Or the Consumer Reports article comparing Toyota’s sudden acceleration complaint rate with other automakers that notes “Ford also stood out with a significant number of related complaints,” comprising 28% of all complaints for 2008 models, versus Toyota’s 41%, explaining that "both automakers had a disproportionate number of occurrences for their market share."

As obviously concerned you are for the safety and wellbeing of American drivers, no need to thank me for the heads-up. I know you're only about the fairness of it all and will demand that the appropriate parties be held accountable at the appropriate time.

Hypocrisy, inconsistency, conflict of interest: Yep, it’s all still there.

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lfragain "My point about Ford probably still stands, as it has on any other thread dealing with the backlash against Toyota"

Fair enough ! Let's see how long this lasts- hot off the AP wire for those of you wanting to talk about Ford-

Flash- "Ford- Europes top selling brand"

"Ford was No.1 in Europe in March with sales of 192,500 vehicles, a 16.1 per cent increase – or 26,700 vehicles – compared to March 2009, and the company's tenth consecutive month-on-month volume increase. Fiesta sales at 68,800 were the highest for any Ford model on record in a single month in Europe."

Tis really all we need to know about Ford for the time being isn't it ?

"Mark Geragos?!?"

Yep, Mark "chomping at the bit" Geragos. Can't wait to see your response after he wins one suit after another. I suspect it'll be a vaulted display of "fist shaking-foot stomping, "America this-America that", What a sham la-de-da-de-da". Much in tune with the vast majority of your posts that time and time again fail to assess any responsibility to the company in question- Toyota ! Most comical indeed.

"you seem to trust Consumer Reports more than Forbes"

Really ? The same poster that has been calling out CR for months and months about their historical favoritism towards Toyota- even as the lawsuits against them pile up ? You obviously haven't done your homework here. In fact I find it just laughable as to how quicly CR has turned on Toyota- they can't distance themselves quick enough ! I'd say they are extremely concerned that they are about to get dragged into the toilet with them. The questions are bound to come out- "How did CR miss all these design flaws to the extent that they were giving Toyota automatic approval ratings" ?

"I know you're only about the fairness of it all and will demand that the appropriate parties be held accountable at the appropriate time."

And in all fairness- like the Pinto of old- shouldn't every single defective Toyota be banned from the streets of America ? Shouldn't Toyota face the same consequences for filling the US streets with defective flawed products. And shouldn't Toyota face the additional burden that comes with the fact that they knew about the defects- hid info on the defects- delayed repairing the defects- all for the sake of profits !

I dare say, "Hypocrisy, inconsistency, conflict of interest: Yep, it’s all still there" just not from this observers camp.

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Branded at 11:14 PM JST - 15th April. yep, Mark "chomping at the bit" Geragos. Can't wait to see your response after he wins one suit after another.

In all fairness, Actor Mark Geragos will be a good lawyer for the defendents of friviolous case against Toyota. Didn't he lose the Peterson's case big time? What a good lawyer.

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Branded,

You're going to have to explain the ground rules for this discussion to me, because I'm at a loss.

When another poster used a Forbes article outlining the “Worst Made Cars on the Road” as evidence that perhaps the rest of the world isn’t convinced Toyota is an evil company, you poo-pooed it with the following:

Branded at 12:58 AM JST - 13th April

“Now here's something to take with a big grain of salt- more media pundits trying to tell you about the "worst made cars"- the same intellectuals that sold Americans and the rest of the planet on defective Toyotas for dozens of years- actually coming back for more ???”

Yet later, you seem perfectly comfortable with using a Consumer Reports article about rollover problems with one of its SUV models to support your assertion that Toyota is indeed evil.

Branded at 12:15 AM JST - 14th April

“Probably has something to do with the latest report from Consumer Reports about more rollover problems.”

Naturally, I had to assume that CR must have somehow passed your litmus test for not being too intellectually media pundit-ish to allow you to quote it in support of your position without looking, well, hypocritical.

But then you back-peddle against CR with this:

“I find it just laughable as to how quicly CR has turned on Toyota- they can't distance themselves quick enough ! I'd say they are extremely concerned that they are about to get dragged into the toilet with them. The questions are bound to come out- "How did CR miss all these design flaws to the extent that they were giving Toyota automatic approval ratings" ?”

So, why is CR good enough to quote when the article puts your argument in a favorable light, but is suddenly “laughable” when the very same publication also has numerous articles that damage your position?

So CR is magically now in the same boat as Forbes -– It's intellectual, media-oriented, punditry?

And the Associated Press is somehow free enough of intellectual, media-oriented punditry for you to place complete faith in it’s objectivity not only once, with the above article, but twice with your quote of some AP article about rising Ford sales in Europe that somehow discredits any suggestion that Ford was less than forthright with how it handled defects in a similar way with its North American Hybrids.

Please, enlighten me. What exactly is the criteria for which public information you’ll accept and which you’ll dismiss out of hand. Because your standards seems to shift with the ebb and flow of the argument as it relates to how well -- or how poorly -- you are making a point at any given moment.

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Sure lfragain, I'll play-

"You're going to have to explain the ground rules for this discussion to me, because I'm at a loss."

In light of the Consumer Reports scandal, where CR was actively doling out "automatic approval ratings" to Toyota's for years, the whole "consumer advocate group industry" had mud on their face. The irony was to see CR pull a 180 and go after Toyota with a vengence- obviously trying to distance themselves from the troubled automaker. Make no mistake, court investigations will eventually lead to the "more than cozy" relationship between not only CR but also NHTSA members. Sorry if the irony of it all doesn't grasp you- I find the whole scenerio about as difficult to swallow as an "A-Team" episode run amoke ! These guys at CR, the NHTSA, and Toyota are all in CYA mode ! It's only a matter of time till these canaries start singing- they have no choice ! This house of cards is about to come crashing down and the finger pointing will have no end ! I don't see many folks out there willing to face financial ruin and spend years in jail just to cover the hind ends of some Tokyo bigshots !

"Please, enlighten me. What exactly is the criteria for which public information you’ll accept and which you’ll dismiss out of hand."

Quite simple- no ebb, no flow ! The AP has no vested interest in reporting anything other than the facts- the facts that they uncover through their own investigations- it's called journalism ! Magazine rags like Consumer Reports have been compromised by big business- how deeply has yet to be revealed- but I'm willing to wait. In the meantime we are being provided with a new show from your good friends at Toyota- the Lexus SUV fiasco ! Another cold slap in the face for many I imagine- but then again, for many the question remains-

"What exactly is the criteria for which public information you'll accept and which you'll dismiss out of hand."

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sfjp330 is on to something-

"Actor Mark Geragos will be a good lawyer for the defendents of friviolous case against Toyota. Didn't he lose the Peterson's case big time? What a good lawyer."

Which is probably why he's taken to this case with such enthusiasm- even a bad lawyer is gonna make a killing on this one !

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