PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s the largest criminal penalty ever assessed against an auto manufacturer — $1.2 billion — announced Wednesday morning by Attorney General Eric Holder.

“Toyota intentionally concealed information and misled the public about safety issues behind these recalls,” said Holder.

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Toyota recalled over 10 million vehicles for those safety issues that included faulty brakes and sticky accelerators.

That caused accidents like one in 2009 when Linda Geyer’s Toyota Camry wouldn’t stop outside a parking lot in Hampton, jumped a curb, and was stopped by trees from going down a very steep hill.

“Toyota’s conduct was shameful. It showed a blatant disregard for systems and laws designed to look after the safety of consumers,” noted Holder.

In exchange for Toyota paying $1.2 billion, the government will dismiss its criminal complaint against the car manufacturer.

But Toyota will be required to have an independent monitor to make sure it does right by consumers when it comes to internal accident reports and communication about all safety issues.

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So, do any of the victims get that money?

Attorney Art Schwarzwaelder represents people in personal injury lawsuits — because it’s a criminal action, he says, “The money still goes to the government.”

But this settlement can help Toyota victims in civil lawsuits against the manufacturer.

“That kind of conduct can be admitted in evidence in a civil case and used to prove negligence,” noted Schwarzwaelder. “It can also be used to support a claim for punitive damages which are intended to punish Toyota.”

On top of the new penalty, Toyota has already paid $1.6 billion to its victims — making this a very expensive failure to act.

U.S. Files Charge Against Toyota & $1.2B Penalty (3/19/14)
More Reports by Jon Delano

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