WASHINGTON -- Toyota Motor Corp. acknowledged it has never provided sensitive records called the “books of knowledge” to plaintiffs who have sued the company after crashes but also said such documents weren't requested or required.
“Toyota is not currently aware of any case where it improperly withheld responsive BOK (books of knowledge) information,” Toyota lawyer Theodore Hester said in a letter Friday to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
The company also isn't “aware of any case where responsive electronic records were improperly withheld by Toyota,” the seven-and-a-half-page letter said.
The House panel had questioned the automaker about its disclosure of the records after the committee had subpoenaed 6,000 pages of internal records kept by former Toyota lawyer Dimitrios Biller.
These documents “indicate a systematic disregard for the law and routine violation of court discovery orders in litigation," committee Chairman Ed Towns, D-N.Y., said in a letter to Toyota last month.
A committee spokeswoman said Friday: "We are currently going through Toyota's response and will have a reply to them at the appropriate time."
The Toyota letter said the books of knowledge contain “highly proprietary and commercially sensitive information regarding job process flow, manuals, procedures and regulatory information” compiled since 2002.
The company has searched these books “numerous times, given the nature of the content of BOK and the specific discovery requests,” the letter said.
But “BOK materials have not been produced because the materials were not responsive to the requests at issue; because the case settled before any production could take place, or because the production of BOK material was not otherwise required,” Toyota said.
In a case brought by Pennie Green, who became a quadriplegic after her 1997 Camry rolled over, Toyota “searched for potentially responsive BOK, but as a result of reviewing for and determining actual responsiveness of the information, no such information was produced,” the letter said.
Biller, who worked for Toyota from 2003 to 2007, said in an interview that Toyota's explanation of why it hasn't ever produced the books “is false, misleading and intentionally deceptive.”
“The books of knowledge have never been requested because no one ever knew they existed,” Biller said. “But the documents and the information contained in the books are quite relevant. They were requested by plaintiffs but were withheld by Toyota.”
Biller, who negotiated a $1.5 million settlement of the Green case in 2006 while working for Toyota, has said that the company agreed to pay $1 million more than intended to keep the books of knowledge secret from the plaintiff.
Said Biller: “I was ordered to settle that case before production of documents could take place that would have shown that Toyota was violating its own standards on head clearance after a rollover.”