Tort Wars – The Next Step in the Toyota Saga Regarding Alleged Document Destruction
Here is a different example of how mass tort litigation ends up becoming a media story. In this instance, the media consists of the latest story on Toyota’s battles regarding alleged destruction of internal documents in order to avoid the information becoming evidence in rollover cases.
The short version is that after suing Toyota for wrongful discharge, a former inside lawyer has turned over to a federal judge four boxes of documents that are said to support his claim that documents were wrongfully destroyed by Toyota. The judge has ordered the documents to be secured, scanned and coded, and will give Toyota a chance to claim privilege regarding the documents. No doubt plaintiff’s lawyers will then assert the crime-fraud exception applies to any otherwise privileged documents. The judge’s ruling presumably will be widely reported.
How would you like to be the General Counsel dealing with this situation ? What would you want to know and then what would you decide to do when no one will give you the answers you need ? Much wisdom on the subject of crisis management has been spelled out before by business consultants. See, e.g,, Stop The Presses: The Crisis and Litigation PR Desk Reference. Written by Richard Levick and Larry Smith of Levick Strategic Communications, the book addresses crisis management in general, and its chapters 7 and 8 deal with strategies for dealing with blog stories and other issues that were more or less immaterial as little as 5 years ago. Also potentially relevant is its chapter 9 on the impacts of media related to prosecutorial activity.