Los Angeles, CA. (PRWEB) March 29, 2014
The Justice Department made the announcement on Wednesday, March 19 that Toyota has recently agreed to pay the largest fine ever imposed on an automotive company. Los Angeles Personal Injury and Defective Products Attorney Patrick Bailey hopes that the fine will send a clear message to other auto makers: "safety must always come first. And if it does not come first for an automotive manufacturer, the company will be held accountable. But these companies usually only get the message after terrible tragedies have occurred. Perhaps this large fine will send the message that they need to be more proactive about safety."
Toyota was at the center of a controversy several years ago when some of their cars were allegedly experiencing sudden-acceleration. They have not admitted that the suspected vehicles caused any injuries or deaths nor have investigators definitively tied that problem to any crashes. But Toyota has agreed to settle. The settlement will put an end to criminal and civil investigations by the federal government.
The Justice Department announced that Toyota will pay a $1.2 billion fine. The government had been investigating the company's response to the alleged sudden-acceleration issue and was specifically focused on a 2009 incident that possibly led to a crash and the deaths of four people. The safety concern led to a recall of millions of Toyota vehicles.
In a March 20, 2014 summary of the issue, LA Times writers Tina Susman and Jerry Hirsch write that the fine and criminal charges "stem from Toyota's actions after a 2009 sudden-acceleration crash in which an off-duty California Highway Patrol officer and his family were killed in a runaway Lexus ES outside San Diego" ("Toyota sudden-acceleration settlement is ratified"). While Toyota has denied that a vehicle defect caused the crash, they have admitted to misleading the public about the possibility of sudden-acceleration that led to the recalls in 2009 and 2010.
"Toyota has admitted that they misled the public and the federal government. They should be held accountable of course. And a billion dollars does sound like a lot of money, but, in reality, it's not going to hurt Toyota," Bailey says. "The fines need to be even larger and the oversight needs to be even more aggressive. Car manufacturers who are currently in the midst of recalls and confronting safety concerns should be faced with even larger fines. This may be the only way to get their attention."
GM has issued a massive recall over the last several months due to a possible problem with ignition switches. According to multiple media reports, including this March 14, 2014 story produced by National Public Radio's Sonari Glinton ("Ignition Switch Recall Straddles Old and New GM"), the company issued a recall for 1.6 million cars made between 2003 and 2007. The ignition switch in these cars can, allegedly, be switched off without warning even while the car is being driven. This may disable the engine and shut down vital systems in the car including the airbags. The NPR story indicates that the malfunction has been linked to dozens of crashes.
Additionally, in the Bloomberg News article "GM Investigated Over Ignition Recall Linked to 13 Deaths" published on February 27, 2014 by Jeff Plungis, readers are informed that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched a probe into the company's disclosure of facts regarding the recall. Even if the vehicles did not lead to any accidents, Bailey says, "the recall indicates that GM identified a problem. But did they respond soon enough? A resolution may take years to find just as it did in the Toyota case. But no matter how long it takes, all of the media attention, the numerous government investigations and the intense public focus on these two recent cases should encourage greater safety awareness by car manufacturers."
Bailey concludes by saying "the GM and Toyota cases both indicate that these corporations, and others like them, must be aggressively monitored. They must adhere to safety standards and respond appropriately to safety concerns," Bailey says. "I am glad to see that the fines have increased for violations and maybe these fines will continue to increase and force these types of massive corporations to take notice. But I am not alone in believing that for these companies to make fundamental changes, the fines will need to be even larger and the oversight even more aggressive."