In what appears to be the first case in Texas to be filed against Toyota seeking to reopen previously settled product liability cases, Judge T. John Ward, who presides over the United States District Court, Eastern District of Texas, Marshall Division, signed and entered a temporary restraining order against Toyota Motor Corporation, Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. and several in-house counsel for Toyota regarding document retention related to Toyota motor vehicles.
The temporary restraining order arises out of a civil RICO complaint filed in Judge Ward’s court by Raul Lopez, a plaintiff who previously settled a personal injury case with Toyota years ago. Mr. Lopez filed a RICO complaint on September 25 seeking to reopen his case after Dimitrious Biller, a former in-house attorney for Toyota, filed a federal lawsuit in California alleging Toyota has illegally withheld and destroyed evidence in hundreds of rollover injury and death cases over the past several years.
The temporary restraining order issued by Judge Ward yesterday orders Toyota, and essentially anyone who works for or with Toyota, to:
- Issue litigation holds on all documents in any form pertaining to any make, model or year platform vehicle;
- Issue litigation holds on all documents in any form pertaining to any non-production vehicle evaluation pertaining to product liability or crashworthiness issues;
- Issue litigation holds on all documents in any form pertaining to research projects that involve issues related to product liability or crashworthiness issues;
- Issue litigation holds on all documents that are presently or will be subject to any type of document retention policy;
- Issue litigation holds on all documentation and all communications sent to outside Counsel, outside experts, or outside contractors.
Judge Ward also set a show cause hearing for October 7, 2009, at 1:30 pm, for Toyota to show why the temporary restraining order should not be converted to a preliminary injunction.
The style of the case is Raul Lopez, et. al. v. Toyota Motor Corporation, et. al., Cause No. 2:09-CV-292.