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Old 02-19-2010, 08:22 AM   #1
WSJ Law Blog
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Default Will Former Toyota Lawyer Be Whistleblower Amid Safety Mess?

The tough times continue for Toyota, and the plaintiffs’ bar continues to collect fodder. But the news this morning caught our eye because of a focus on Dimitrios Biller, former in-house lawyer for the Japanese auto maker.

Congress on Thursday said it subpoenaed documents stemming from a lawsuit Biller filed last year in California, which alleged that Toyota illegally withheld evidence in hundreds of rollover death and injury cases in a “ruthless conspiracy” to avoid scrutiny by federal regulators. Toyota has flatly denied his allegations. Here’s the WSJ story and background on the Biller suit from Reuters and CBS, which links to the suit.

Biller, a graduate of Loyola Law School in Los Angeles in 1989, was a partner at Pillsbury Winthrop before joining Toyota, according to Reuters.

He was involved in defending Toyota in cases involving rollover and crushed roof accidents, according to the news agency. He said that after highlighting the issue to his supervisors and making numerous complaints, he was isolated and cut off from others in his group.

In the lawsuit, Biller said he was “surprised and alarmed” to discover that the company was not producing e-mails and other electronically stored information to plaintiffs as he said was required, CBS said. He allegedly repeatedly complained to supervisors that the company was illegally withholding evidence.

Biller signed a severance agreement in 2007 after being told he would be reassigned to an undetermined position within the company, Reuters said.

Biller told Reuters that the current recall at Toyota is an “absolute joke,” adding that he believed it was an electronic problem rather than the gas pedal as Toyota claims.

“Toyota can’t admit that it’s an electronic problem because it would be way too expensive to fix in 20 to 25 million cars,” he told Reuters. “The bottom line is that they want to save money.”

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