Toyota Seeks to Close Public Access to 'Purloined' Documents

Toyota Seeks to Close Public Access to 'Purloined' Documents Photo: StaraBlazkova via Wikimedia Commons.

An unidentified subcontractor at a language translation service hired by Toyota Motor Corp.’s defense counsel may have “purloined” materials that were redacted and subject to protective orders, according to a recent filing.

The subcontractor is identified as a woman but her name is redacted in the court filing in litigation over unexpected acceleration in Toyota cars.

Toyota alleges the subcontractor posted on unidentified websites stolen documents, including a native version of an unredacted PowerPoint presentation by a plaintiff’s expert, according to the document. The plaintiff’s expert presented the information during the first trial to test whether Toyota’s throttle-control systems caused vehicles to spontaneously accelerate. See the redacted filing here.

Toyota wants to confirm that attorney-client privilege and work-product privilege still apply to some of the allegedly stolen documents. The plaintiffs don’t oppose that, according to the filing made by plaintiffs’ co-lead counsel for economic loss cases and personal injury/wrongful death cases.

The filing relates to the Oklahoma state court case of Bookout v. Toyota. A confidential settlement was reached in the case after the Oklahoma City jury concluded that a defect in a Toyota Camry led to one woman’s death and another’s injuries. The jury awarded $3 million in compensatory damages and concluded the carmaker acted with “reckless disregard.” (The case settled before the jury made a decision on punitive damages).

According to court papers, the PowerPoint presentation was prepared by Michael Barr, a plaintiffs expert witness on embedded software who concluded that Toyota’s source code was defective and led to unintended acceleration in the plaintiffs’ Toyota Camry.

“Task X” was used on Barr’s redacted PowerPoint to describe a car function being kept out of the public record. Barr testified that the “death of ‘Task X’ ” ultimately led to the loss of throttle control in the Camry, according to a report by trade journal EE Times.

Amaris Elliott-Engel contributes to law.com.

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