March 22, 2006

DaimlerChrysler seeks disbarment of lawyer who tampered with evidence in product liability case

Auburn Hills, Michigan – A Texas attorney who prosecuted a lawsuit found by a Texas district court judge to be fraudulent, and to involve evidence tampering, attempts to bribe witnesses and repeated perjury to cover up the fraud should sacrifice the privilege to practice law, DaimlerChrysler Corporation’s Vice President and Associate General Counsel, Kenneth Gluckman, argued in an intervention filed in Texas District Court. The company official said Andrew Toscano of San Antonio should be disbarred after committing what a Texas appellate court called “an egregious example of the worst kind of abuse of the judicial system.”

In 1998, San Antonio attorneys Andrew Toscano, Robert Kugle and Robert “Trey” Wilson III, of The Kugle Law Firm, prosecuted a product liability lawsuit against DaimlerChrysler and others seeking U.S.$2 billion in damages. The case involved a Dodge Neon that was involved in a rollover accident after the driver fell asleep behind the wheel. Four of his passengers died in the accident. Shortly before trial in 2000, DaimlerChrysler’s attorneys learned that:

  • Toscano or someone acting with his approval had tampered with the steering system in the Dodge Neon to create the false appearance that it was defective

  • Toscano and his colleagues repeatedly refused to abide by court orders to turn over photographs of the vehicle’s steering system taken before it had been intentionally damaged – photographs that they knew would expose the case as a fraud
  • An investigator working for The Kugle Law Firm attempted to bribe and intimidate witnesses into “forgetting” that the driver had fallen asleep behind the wheel and caused the accident.

When the fraud was revealed, Judge David Peeples dismissed the case and sanctioned Toscano, Kugle and Wilson for nearly U.S.$1 million. The sanction remains unpaid, although Toscano and Wilson continue to practice law.

“Unless DaimlerChrysler is permitted its day in court, there is a danger that abusive, egregious, outrageous lawyer misconduct could go unpunished,” said Hantler. “If that happens, it would send a signal to other unscrupulous lawyers that, at least in Texas, they can file fraudulent cases, tamper with evidence, attempt to bribe and intimidate witnesses and get caught – but still practice law like any upstanding member of the Texas Bar.”

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