The company had just put to rest the probe into its alleged mishandling of the sudden acceleration issues in its cars, when at the beginning of April 2014, it was named in a class action lawsuit filed in California federal court. According to carcomplaints.com, an automotive complaint resource, the complaint was filed on behalf of consumers in five states: California, Washington, Florida, New York, and New Jersey. This time, sudden acceleration wasn’t the problem. Plaintiffs allege that the vehicles have an engine defect that results in faster-than-normal oil consumption.
Engines Running Low on Oil
The new design defect allegedly affects the four-cylinder engine in many of Toyota’s vehicles. According to court documents, plaintiffs say that when they take their vehicles in for an oil change, they’re told the oil in the engine is nearly gone, having been consumed at an unusually high rate.
When an engine runs without oil, the result can be engine overheating, smoking, and eventual engine failure, which could increase risk of accidents and injuries. The NHTSA has received several reports of problems related to this issue, but so far, Toyota has not notified consumers. Worse, the problem usually begins to get worse after the vehicle warranty has expired, leaving drivers stuck with the repair costs.
The company has allegedly been aware of the issue since 2008, but has done little to warn consumers. Plaintiffs believe the vehicles should have been recalled to fix the defect or that at the very least, that the company should have offered to repair it for free, or to reimburse customers who had to repair it themselves.
Vehicles Affected by the Defect
Those vehicles affected by the alleged defect include 2007-2009 models of the Camry and Scion tC, 2007-2011 models of the Camry Hybrid, 2009 models of the Corolla and Matrix, 2006-2008 models of the RAV4, 2007-2008 models of the Solara, and 2008-2009 models of the Scion xB.
As early as 2007, car owners were reporting engines deprived of oil long before the 3,000-mile change schedule was up, with some suffering damage bad enough to require the installation of new engines.
Toyota Ordered to Allow Independent Monitoring of Safety
As part of the settlement with the U.S. Government, Toyota was ordered to pay a series of fines to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for being “slow to report safety problems.” It was also ordered to allow independent monitoring of its safety practices, and to report any defects to regulators within five days, if the defects are determined to affect safety.
Between 2007 and 2011, the company faced repeated bad publicity when drivers reported accidents resulting from the vehicles sudden and unusual acceleration. Toyota denied a problem with the acceleration system, and blamed drivers, trapped floor mats, and stuck accelerators for years before finally recalling the affected vehicles in 2012.
Exclusively focused on representing plaintiffs, especially in mass tort litigation, Eric Chaffin prides himself on providing unsurpassed professional legal services in pursuit of the specific goals of his clients and their families. Both his work and his cases have been featured in the national press, including on ABC’s Good Morning America.