As early as 2002, Toyota owners had complained of problems with sudden acceleration that resulted in accidents and injuries. Toyota had initially blamed drivers, then floor mats, and finally "sticky pedals," while concealing the real problem — that the software in the electronic throttle system was defective. As the problem continued and more accidents and even a few deaths resulted from instances of unintended acceleration, the public became more aware of the problem. Toyota owners were finding themselves in situations where their cars had dropped dramatically in value, and yet they wanted to get rid of a car that may have compromised safety.
Across the country, Toyota owners files lawsuits attempting to recoup the economic losses suffered from having purchased unsafe Toyota automobiles. These cases were consolidated into multi-district litigation in Federal Court in Los Angeles, where Steve Berman of Berman Hagens Sobol Shapiro LLC was appointed lead counsel for the class. After two years of analyzing software code, deposing witnesses, and examining internal Toyota documents, Berman and his team, which included Marc Seltzer of Susman Godfrey LLC and Frank Pitre of Cotchett, Pitre and McCarthy, reached a $1.6 billion settlement that would compensate some 19 million current and former Toyota owners. In re: Toyota Motor Corp. got Berman and his team nominated for Public Justice's 2014 Trial Lawyer of the Year award.
This video was one of five that I produced for Public Justice this past summer as a team member at Rich Tolsma Productions. Thanks to John Nolan at Rich Tolsma Productions for the nice title and lower third graphics and for interviewing Marc Seltzer and Frank Pitre in California, while I was in Boston working on another video for the same project.