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CINCINNATI — Stanley M. Chesley of the Cincinnati-based law firm of Waite,
Schneider, Bayless & Chesley Co. L.P.A. announced Feb. 12 that he had filed
the first national class action lawsuit against Toyota Motor Corp. under the
federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) racketeering
statute, which prohibits ongoing fraudulent activities.
According to Chesley:
This national class action is unique among the lawsuits filed in the wake of
Toyota's worldwide recall of 10.7 million vehicles. Instead of targeting only
the defects themselves, it targets Toyota's repeated efforts to deceive its car
owners — and even its own dealers— as to the mechanical and electrical problems
mushrooming within its fleet of vehicles. Chesley's complaint alleges that,
although Toyota knew of these problems years before the recent recalls, it
continued to assure its dealers and the general public that its vehicles were
The government has found Toyota made "inaccurate and misleading" statements
about the causes of these mechanical and electrical problems. And, more
recently, Toyota has refused to give government investigators access to its
vehicles' event data recorder — similar to an airplane's "black box" — under the
guise that its technology is proprietary.
Chesley's lawsuit claims Toyota drivers should not have to make monthly lease
or loan payments on recalled Toyotas until their vehicles have been repaired
according to specifications approved by the government. Instead, it asks the
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky to force Toyota to make
those lease or loan payments until that happens. According to Chesley, this
novel, payment-shifting approach would benefit both Toyota drivers and the
public: it would relieve drivers of the unfair burden of making payments on cars
they can't safely drive and would increase participation in this recall, thereby
removing a greater number of dangerous cars from the streets.
Historically, only about 10 percent of owners take advantage of automotive
recalls. Chesley claims his plan would dramatically increase that participation
rate by giving Toyota drivers a potent incentive to bring cars in for the
government-certified repairs. If the court adopts his plan, merely by tendering
their cars for these repairs, Toyota drivers would qualify for temporary relief
from their monthly lease or loan payments. To remove an even larger number of
dangerous cars from service, the lawsuit also seeks to expand the recall to
include all cars with the same defects.
By filing the case in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of
Kentucky — the home of Toyota's largest U.S. plant and its North American
headquarters — Chesley said he intends to send a message to Toyota that the
American public will not be intimidated by corporations who care more about
profit margins than personal safety.