Posts Tagged ‘Toyota’

Chasing the Toyota hobgoblin

The quest to do something about the imagined Toyota crisis may result in a federal mandate for all cars to include “brake-override” features that cut off power when the driver hits the brake. Writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Michael Fumento says many cars on the road do already have such a feature — but lawmakers don’t seem overly curious as to whether it’s made a difference.

April 22 roundup

  • Liquor commissioner of New Hampshire nabbed on DWI rap, refuses breathalyzer test [WMUR]
  • Slumber party liability waivers are something we’ve reported on before. But home trampoline disclaimers? [Free-Range Kids]
  • Website’s terms and conditions include giving up your immortal soul [Popehat]
  • Scottish jury says charges “not proven” against lawyers in case of monetary demand for return of stolen Leonardo da Vinci painting [Guardian, earlier]
  • If you’re going to shake down food makers with false claims of contaminants in their wares, it’s best to vary your story patterns [Tacoma News-Tribune, Seattle Times]
  • “My task is simple: spew foundationless tripe that turns itself into a pre-trial settlement demand.” [The Namby Pamby, a lawyer blog I really should have linked before now] More: Daniel Fisher, Forbes.
  • Why plaintiffs lawyers aren’t so thrilled about recent Toyota revelations: most are invested in blaming electronics, not stuck pedals or mats [WSJ Law Blog]
  • Duck hunters sue guide over disappointing trip [Fred Hartman, Fort Bend, Texas, Herald]

AP on Toyota legal “stonewalling”

Is the Japanese company super-extra-resistant to discovery demands, or is it just behaving the way other automakers would, backed up by a Japanese legal environment that is less oriented than ours toward compulsory disclosure-on-demand managed by hostile lawyers? Michael Fumento: “it’s clear from the article that the ‘experts’ upon whom the journalists relied aren’t just lawyers, aren’t just trial lawyers, but are trial lawyers suing Toyota.”

The politics of Toyota-bashing

Revealing vignette from AP coverage last month:

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Virg Bernero has been pushing [Michigan Attorney General Mike] Cox to aggressively go after the Japanese automaker, saying in a statement last week that Cox should file a claim on behalf of all owners of Toyota vehicles in Michigan and seek to recover damages under state and federal consumer protection laws.

“If Mike Cox won’t stand up for Michigan consumers and hold Toyota accountable for these reprehensible actions, he isn’t doing his job,” Bernero said. The Lansing mayor heads the Mayors and Municipalities Automotive Coalition, an advocacy group for communities that depend on the domestic auto industry.

“Interest in Toyotas Starts to Revive”

According to Kelley’s Blue Book, consumers are trending back toward the Japanese maker in their buying plans. [New York Times “Bucks” blog] That’s despite the menace of rays from outer space, as denounced by one anonymous informant to NHTSA. [Detroit Free Press, which has a PDF of the submission from “A Concerned Scientist”]

More: On a more serious note, Holman Jenkins has a good column today [WSJ, sub-only] tracing the key role of bandwagon effects in sudden acceleration consciousness (which is one reason waves of complaints tend to occur in clumps, by carmaker and otherwise). Excerpt:

…In 2001, at least four papers were presented at the annual meeting of the Trial Lawyers Association urging a revival of sudden unintended acceleration litigation, insisting that such cases could prevail in absence of evidence of a defect, and even amid evidence of driver error, simply by harping in front of a jury on a record of “Other Similar Incidents” (OSI).

That’s the roadmap being followed now, as lawyer Randy Roberts told CNBC this week: “Toyota is very good at taking one consumer complaint about sudden unintended acceleration and dissecting it and convincing you that it may have been a floor mat or driver error or a sticky pedal. But when you put all those complaints out on the table, then you can see the big picture. That’s how you connect the dots.”

Huh? The logic here is ridiculous. To wit: 15 examples of X causing Y are proof that something other than X must cause Y.

Toyotathon roundup

  • In much-publicized recent Harrison, N.Y. crash, computer shows no indication that housekeeper driving car was using the brake [NY Times, Detroit News]
  • My National Review Online piece (which spent a couple of days in the #1 and #2 most-read positions at that site) is discussed by Damon Root at Reason “Hit and Run” among elsewhere;
  • 69 year old plows her car into a clinic waiting room in Peabody, Mass., but she was driving an Infiniti so everyone can turn the page [Boston Herald]
  • About that “declining quality at Toyota” meme [Truth About Cars, Fumento and more]
  • As I pointed out in the NRO piece, complaints of unintended acceleration ebb and flow for reasons that often seem to have more to do with cultural and media trends than with what might actually be going on with the cars. Apropos of which, blogger Auto Prophet says complaints actually dropped drastically during the years that electronic throttle controls became common;
  • NHTSA administrator Strickland, who counts as a bit of a hostile witness around these parts, testified last week that “the rate of complaints against Toyota, when compared with other makers, was ‘unremarkable.'” [WaPo]
  • Toyota demanding retraction of ABC News story [Gawker]
  • Here’s a seminar on how to sue, with CLE credit and speakers from firms like Kline & Specter;
  • Highway deaths fall to historic low [David Henderson/EconLog, Payne/NRO “Planet Gore”]
  • Simply priceless: the L.A. Times, which of all the big papers perhaps most reliably transmits a Litigation Lobby view of the world, prints a grossly tendentious paean to the glories of auto-design litigation that relies extensively on the views of Ben Kelley — yes, the Ben Kelley. One place to begin for a corrective is Charles Babcock’s paper, “Approaches to Product Liability Risk in the U.S. Automotive Industry“, published in the 1994 National Academy of Engineering volume Product Liability and Innovation: Managing Risk in an Uncertain Environment.
  • Sam Smith at Jalopnik is taking a hard line: “America, You Brought The Toyota Hoax On Yourself