Dallas, Texas – Toyota has won a US$2.6 million arbitration judgement against one of its former in-house attorneys, who accused the automaker of a conspiracy to hide evidence in seventeen Toyota rollover crash cases.
Dimitrios Biller, who helped to manage Toyota’s rollover lawsuits, was found liable for breach of contract, conversion and statutory unauthorized computer access. The arbitrator awarded Toyota $2.5 million for claimed damages and $100,000 for punitive damages, both of which the arbitrator described as “conservative.” The arbitrator also noted that the harm suffered by Toyota in the disclosures “is real and it is extensive.”
In September 2009, Dallas vehicle safety attorney Todd Tracy filed suit against Toyota to reopen 17 rollover crash cases to determine if evidence had been withheld, as Biller had claimed. In a surprise move a month later, Biller turned over four boxes of privileged attorney-client documents to the federal court, raising questions if there was evidence to support reopening rollover cases across the country. Tracy obtained a protective order for a secure process to store and inspect the documents.
Last year, Tracy conducted an in-depth review of the documents and said he found no evidence to support Biller’s allegations that Toyota hid or destroyed crash safety data. “Not only was there no smoking gun, there was not a whiff of smoke that Toyota had acted improperly,” Tracy said. “It was my legal and professional responsibility to inform the court that the case was without merit and to voluntarily dismiss the lawsuit.”
Tracy said that the arbitrator’s ruling confirmed his decision of dismissal, and that the charges by Biller garnered widespread attention in the wake of reports of sudden unintended acceleration. “Biller presented himself as a guilt-ridden whistle-blower on a crusade to save the public and correct alleged wrongs,” Tracy said. “My review of the Toyota documents a year ago and now the arbitrator’s ruling lead me to believe it was all a figment of Biller’s imagination.”
In a statement, Christopher Reynolds, group vice president and general counsel for Toyota Motor Sales, said, “Toyota takes its legal obligations very seriously and works hard to uphold the highest professional and ethical standards. We are gratified that the credibility of Toyota’s legal organization and the integrity of our legal professionals have been validated. We believe that the arbitrator’s award clearly vindicates Toyota’s position and reaffirms the critical importance of attorney-client privilege as a cornerstone of our legal system. Throughout this process, Mr. Biller has continuously made misleading and inaccurate allegations about Toyota’s conduct, and we feel this award is an appropriate consequence of his actions and completely discredits his meritless attacks on our company and our people.”
The arbitrator also entered a permanent injunction instructing Biller to return Toyota’s confidential documents that he took from the company, and prohibited him from making future wrongful disclosures of confidential Toyota information.