WASHINGTON – MARCH 02, 2010: Center for Auto Safety Executive Director Clarence Ditlow (R), Toyota Motor North America, Inc. President and CEO Yoshimi Inaba (2nd R), and Toyota Motor Corporation Executive Vice President Takeshi Uchiyamada (3rd R) testify during a hearing on the recall of Toyota before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee March 2, 2010 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Three top officials of Toyota testified for the second panel of hearing to answer questions from legislators on the recall and safety records of auto maker. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images).
(Reuters) – Lawyers seeking civil damages against Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) (TM.N) on behalf of U.S. consumers for diminished resale value of recalled vehicles are broadening their cases to add racketeering claims against the automaker.
Using federal racketeering laws to amend the consumer class-action complaints, which have grown in number to more than 80 suits in at least 40 states, exposes Toyota to much greater potential liability.
Under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, a commercial enterprise can be found liable for triple the damages for any harm caused by its fraudulent activities.
As a result, litigation that originally stood to reap more than $2 billion in damages for Toyota owners could end up costing the cash-rich Japanese automaker in excess of $10 billion, said Tim Howard, lead counsel for a team of law firms handling about half the cases.
Each of the revised lawsuits is “a much more robust and thorough complaint than the first rounds because of how the evidence has evolved since then,” Howard said.
A Toyota spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment on Wednesday. The automaker has declined to comment on pending litigation to date.
The updated complaints draw on numerous documents and congressional testimony by Toyota executives to make the case that the company was aware of unintended acceleration problems in its vehicles for several years, even as it continued to promote defective cars as safe and reliable.
One suit in Florida cites a technical service bulletin it says the automaker issued in August 2002 “concerning an engine surge or acceleration problem with the new 2002 Camry, with the solution to recalibrate the Engine Control Module.”
Toyota has insisted that electronics have nothing to do with sudden, unintended acceleration in its vehicles, pointing instead to entrapment of the gas pedal by ill-fitting floor mats or sticky gas pedals themselves.
Those two problems were singled out for correction in recalls of more than 8 million Toyota vehicles to date, the largest such action ever taken by the automaker.
The consumer lawsuits assert that Toyota’s alleged concealment of defects in its vehicles while advertising them as safe constitutes criminal fraud and thus falls under the definition of “racketeering activity.”
Howard said his consortium of law firms had updated existing consumer cases in eight states as of Tuesday, and filings were planned in at last 12 more by week’s end.
All those and others around the country are to be consolidated into a single class action in the next couple of months, following a hearing before a panel of judges set for next Thursday in U.S. District Court in San Diego.
Litigation against Toyota has mounted quickly in the weeks since the recalls began for a problem linked to more than 50 crash deaths in Toyota and Lexus vehicles under investigation over the past decade.
Lawsuits related to injuries and deaths are the most obvious cases being brought against Toyota, and a class-action suit was filed in Los Angeles last month on behalf of U.S. shareholders accusing Toyota of misleading investors.
The consumer class actions are based on the premise that the resale value of Toyotas has dropped substantially as a result of the company’s safety crisis.
Major automobile valuation services have downgraded the resale value of Toyotas, Howard said.
Toyota has long boasted one of the industry’s highest resale values for its vehicles, one of the major factors in its success in the U.S. market.
(Editing by Richard Chang)
Photos aplenty showing Afghan President all over the democratic world hobnobbing with world leaders from Iran, Germany and British.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai (L) shakes hands with visiting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as he arrives at The Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan on March 10, 2010. Ahmadinejad said Iran does not consider the presence of foreign troops a solution for peace in Afghanistan. His visit overlaps with US Defence Secretary Robert Gates touring the country for a review of the US and NATO troop surge aimed at ending eight years of war. Photo by Parspix/ABACAPRESS.COM
Visiting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (L) speaks at a joint press conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan on March 10, 2010. Photo by Parspix/ABACAPRESS.COM
Afghan President Hamid Karzai addresses the audience during the 46th Munich Security Conference at the Bayerischer Hof hotel in Munich on February 7, 2010 in Munich, Germany. The 46th Munich conference on security policy ends today.
German Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (R) welcomes Afghan President Hamid Karzai during the first day of the 46th Munich Security Conference at the Bayerischer Hof hotel in Munich on February 5, 2010 in Munich, Germany.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Afghan President Hamid Karzai depart after speaking to the media after talks at the Chancellery on January 27, 2010 in Berlin, Germany. Merkel has pledged an additional 500 German ISAF troops for Afghanistan as well as a program to help intice Taliban fighters who are willing to lay down their arms. Karzai is in Berlin ahead of the upcoming international conference on Afghanistan in London. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images).
U.S. Senators Joseph Lieberman (C) and John McCain (R) talk to Afghan President Hamid Karzai (L) during the 46th Munich Security Conference at the Bayerischer Hof hotel in Munich on February 7, 2010 in Munich, Germany.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown (R) shakes hands with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan in Downing Street after a breakfast meeting on January 28, 2010 in London, England. Foreign ministers from over 70 countries attended the conference, co-hosted by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Talks aims to tackle key issues on the future of Afghanistan and the gradual withdrawal of international troops from the country. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images).
LONDON, ENGLAND – JANUARY 28: Delegates including British Prime Minister Gordon Brown (C), Afghan President Hamid Karzai (CL) and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (CR) and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (Second Row, CL) pose for a photograph ahead of the Afghanistan London Conference at Lancaster House on January 28, 2010 in London, England.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks with Spain’s Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos Cuyaube before posing for a photograph ahead of the Afghanistan London Conference at Lancaster House on January 28, 2010 in London, England.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband waits to greet US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the Afghanistan London Conference at Lancaster House on January 28, 2010 in London, England.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (L) meets with President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai at the London Conference on Afghanistan in London on January 28, 2010. UPI/Embassy Photo.
US Congressional Hearing Into Toyota Recalls.Watch it live by clicking below:
WASHINGTON, USA: James Lentz, president and COO of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.. is sworn in during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on February 23, 2010 in Washington, DC. In 2006 Rhonda Smith testified that for six miles she was unable to slow down or stop her Lexus ES350 and when it finally did stopped the transmission and brakes were ruined. The committee is hearing testimony on Toyota Motor Corporation s response to Incidents of sudden unintended acceleration. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images).
CHICAGO : Bob Carter, Group Vice President and General Manager Toyota division, gestures as he introduces the 2011 Toyota Avalon during the first Media preview day at the Chicago Auto Show February 10, 2010, in Chicago, Illinois. Toyota has recalled numerous vehicles in their line for faulty brakes and sticking accelerators. Photo by Frank Polich/Getty Images).
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
Remarks by the President in State of the Union Address
9:11 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Madam Speaker, Vice President Biden, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow Americans:
Our Constitution declares that from time to time, the President shall give to Congress information about the state of our union. For 220 years, our leaders have fulfilled this duty. They’ve done so during periods of prosperity and tranquility. And they’ve done so in the midst of war and depression; at moments of great strife and great struggle.
It’s tempting to look back on these moments and assume that our progress was inevitable -– that America was always destined to succeed. But when the Union was turned back at Bull Run, and the Allies first landed at Omaha Beach, victory was very much in doubt. When the market crashed on Black Tuesday, and civil rights marchers were beaten on Bloody Sunday, the future was anything but certain. These were the times that tested the courage of our convictions, and the strength of our union. And despite all our divisions and disagreements, our hesitations and our fears, America prevailed because we chose to move forward as one nation, as one people.
Again, we are tested. And again, we must answer history’s call.
One year ago, I took office amid two wars, an economy rocked by a severe recession, a financial system on the verge of collapse, and a government deeply in debt. Experts from across the political spectrum warned that if we did not act, we might face a second depression. So we acted -– immediately and aggressively. And one year later, the worst of the storm has passed. Read the rest of this entry »
PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI: A Haitian man holds the photo of his dead son at the GOC university ruins on January 19, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Humanitarian aid is beginning to reach many of the survivors of last week’s deadly magnitude 7.0 earthquake amid fatalities estimated in the tens of thousands and widespread devastation. (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
Miche Guerieri, 21, sits on a boat with her six-week-old baby after spending three days on a crowded ship off the coast of Port-au-Prince January 20, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Hundreds of displaced Haitians have taken refuge on ships in Haiti’s damaged port inlets, waiting for boats to help them escape from the squalid, earthquake-damaged capital.
Aid has started trickling out to Haitians devastated by last weeks earthquake that ravaged the country, though many fear not enough will reach desparate citizens in time to prevent humanitarian catastrophe. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images).
Haitians wait in line for the distribution of food by members of the 2nd brigade of the 82nd Airborne January 19, 2010 in the town of Terra Noire just outside Port-au-Prince.
Scenes in Haiti This Week
PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI – earlier today: A child sits in his father’s arms as they camp at a makeshift site after their home was destroyed by the massive earthquake. Planeloads of rescuers and relief supplies headed to Haiti as governments and aid agencies launched a massive relief operation after a powerful earthquake that may have killed thousands. Many buildings were reduced to rubble by the 7.3-strong quake on January 12. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
These photos were taken earlier today in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Please be warned: some images are graphic and may disturb.
A man requests help to remove bodies from under the rubbles.
People look on as rescue workers try to reach children begging for help from under the rubble of what is left of the St Gerard building.
A man tries to quiet a crowd down so they can listen to the children begging for help from under the rubble of what is left of the St Gerard building.
A women lies on her hospital bed as she waits for care at the main hospital after being injured during the massive earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Haitians dig out rubble by hand at the site of a collapsed school where dozens of students are feared buried.
Haitians walk on the fringe of a displaced persons camp days after the earthquake.
Haitians look at the rubble of the once-ornate National Palace that collapsed during the earthquake.
A Haitian man turns away from the sight of hundreds of bodies piled up outside the morgue and main hospital in Port-au-Prince.
Hands from bodies pile up outside the morgue and main hospital.
Local water company ‘Fraicheu Local’ distributes free water
Rubble of the once-ornate National Palace that collapsed.
Members of FAIRFAX COUNTY Urban Search and Rescue search a collapsed section of the Hotel Montana on January 14, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti during a search for survivors. Eight people, including 7 Americans, have been rescued from the rubble of the hotel. UPI/Joshua Lee Kelsey/U.S. Navy.
Members of Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue scale a collapsed section of the Hotel Montana.
Members of Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue search a collapsed section of the Hotel Montana
Richard Santos, from Washington DC, is carried from the rubble of the Hotel Montana by members of Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue on January 14, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
BELGIAN emergency workers stand as they labor to free Rosemene Josiane, 28, who had been trapped in the rubble of her house for days after the earthquake.
A group of B-FAST (Belgian First Aid and Support Team) members worked most of the day to free the woman, who had her legs pinned under concrete; in the end, the emergency workers had to anesthetize her and amputate one leg to free her. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images).
Neighbors cry out prayers of thanks after Belgian emergency workers save Rosemene Josiane, 28, who has been trapped in the rubble of her house for days since the earthquake.
People, earlier today, carry a coffin of a relative killed by the massive earthquake.
Search and Rescue workers from MEXICO carry their dog as they searches for survivors trapped under the rubble of what is left of a building after the massive earthquake.
A MEXICAN rescue team with search dogs attempts to save suvivors under a seven story building.
People who lost their homes when the massive earthquake struck take up shelter under makeshift tents in the parks in front of the Presidential Palace.
A women waits for care at the main hospital after being injured during the massive earthquake.
A woman requests assistance as local water companies distribute free water as relief efforts continue.
Earlier today, rescue workers educate and coordinate with the population relief efforts days after the earthquake.
Search and rescue team members from the Dominican Republic nap after working the night shift near the Port au Prince airport
Latest Photos: Earthquake Devastates Haitians; Waiting for Aid (be warned, some pictures may disturb)Posted: January 15, 2010
PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI: A women tends to an injured relative at a small clinic after she was caught in the massive earthquake on January 14, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Planeloads of rescuers and relief supplies headed to Haiti as governments and aid agencies launched a massive relief operation after a powerful earthquake killing possibly thousands. Numerous buildings were reduced to rubble by the 7.3-strong quake on January 12. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
In a country that has been totally dependent on the United Nations and the Red Cross even before the earthquake, the biggest blow to a swift humanitarian response in Haiti is the United Nations Mission has suffered a major blow with more than 150 staff still missing, presumed buried under rubble.The UN Haiti mission has about 1700 staff including 1200 Haitians. Among those reportedly still missing in Haiti is the head of the UN mission.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI – JANUARY 13: A man holds a severely injured woman, while waiting for assistance in the town of Canape Vert January 13, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Planeloads of rescuers and relief supplies headed to Haiti as governments and aid agencies launched a massive relief operation after a powerful earthquake that may have killed thousands. (Photo by Frederic Dupoux/Getty Images).
US President Barack Obama ordered a swift and aggressive US rescue effort, while the European Union activated its crisis systems and the Red Cross and United Nations unlocked emergency funds and supplies for the destitute nation. Much of Port-au-Prince was reduced to rubble by the 7.0-strong quake on January 12 but the airport was operational, opening the way for international relief aid to be ferried in by air as well as by sea.
BBC World Service’s Andy Gallagher reported this morning that there isn’t really any sense or signs of any kind of organised international aid relief, or search and rescue, in earthquake-stricken Haiti.
Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince is seen from an aerial assessment mission by the American Red Cross.
BBC’s Gallagher, as he walked the rubble-strewn streets of Haiti:
…I barely saw anyone of any official capacity, just perhaps one Haitian police car and one Haitian ambulance.
…Still no signs of international aid..People keep asking me and stopping me and asking me, where is the help, where is the supplies, where are the promises that have been made? People just feel desperate, but more than anything else, for now completely alone.
People walk in the streets after the earthquake.
An injured women is seen at a makeshift field hospital in Port-au-Prince
Queried about reported problems getting aid into the international airport at Haiti, Gallagher said:
…I can hear what sounds like a C130 military plane either coming in or going out….definite activity there. The airport runway we were lead to believe was badly damaged in the earthquake but when I landed last night, it seems that the runway is fine, there is power at the airport, the runway lights do work at night, there were aircraft taking off and landing last night.
People wait in line for water from the fire department after the earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
A casualty is identified with a makeshift toe tag on January 13, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (Photo by Frederic Dupoux/Getty Images).
A car remains parked outside the ruins of a cafe January 13, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Outside the Villa Creole Hotel in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, January 14, 2010, the injured from surrounding areas have come for shelter and medical attention by a medical NGO, Hope for Haiti. (Carl Juste/Miami Herald/MCT)
Haitian men transport a male earthquake victim after recovering him underneath debris in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (Carl Juste/Miami Herald/MCT)
Haitian men transport a male earthquake victim after recovering him underneath debris in Port-au-Prince. (Carl Juste/Miami Herald/MCT)
Roselyn Joseph, left, gets help in placing the body of her daughter, Emanuela Aminise, 14, inside a coffin, in Port-au-Prince.(Carl Juste/Miami Herald/MCT).
A group of women mourn and react is disbelief as the body of the daughter of the woman in the center turns missing in Port-au-Prince.(Carl Juste/Miami Herald/MCT).
A woman whose leg was amputated tries to lie down on a make-shift bed inside the Eliazar Germain General Hospital where the injured seek medical help, but the medical facility has no doctors in Port-au-Prince. (Carl Juste/Miami Herald/MCT).
A man looks at the body of a dead man outside the Villa Creole Hotel in Port-au-Prince.
A young girl gets medical attention for her injuries outside the Villa Creole Hotel in Port-au-Prince.
A young boy tries to rest on his mother’s lap outside the Villa Creole Hotel
Gladys Loiuis Jeune is pulled alive from the rubble of her home after nearly 43 hours where she was greeted by her ecstatic daughter in Port-au-Prince. (Patrick Farrell/Miami Herald/MCT)
A woman reaches joyously to Gladys Louis Jeune.
The body of a person is trapped in the rubble of a home destroyed by the massive earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
A man carrying a coffin through the streets. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
People look on as others search for survivors under a church in Port-au-Prince.(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Christopher Holmes from the Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue searches for survivors in the rubble of a building in Port-au-Prince on 14th January.
A corpse is carried on a stretcher down a street.