Aug. 3, 2010 -- Attorneys suing Toyota claim that internal company documents show that as long as seven years ago the automaker was able to confirm cases of sudden unintended acceleration that did not involve driver error, and as recently as this year recreated sudden acceleration in a Toyota without driver error.
The sudden-acceleration documents are referenced in a revised complaint filed Monday against Toyota in U.S. District Court in Southern California. Forty Toyota owners who claim that cases of sudden unintended acceleration (SUA) have caused them financial harm by reducing the resale values of their cars are suing Toyota in a class-action lawsuit. The documents are among thousands of pages that a federal judge ordered Toyota to turn over to plaintiffs' attorneys.
According to the suit, "Toyota failed to disclose that its own technicians often replicated SUA events without driver error."
In one case that plaintiffs' attorneys told ABC News involves a Corolla tested in 2010 after a driver complained of SUA, the lawsuit quotes an alleged document that says a Toyota technician also experienced SUA when test-driving the car. "After traveling 20-30 feet" from a stoplight, says the document, "the vehicle exhibited a slight acceleration then began to accelerate on its own." According to the document, "engine speed was estimated to have gone from 1500 rpm to 5500 rpm at the time of the occurrence."
Back in 2003, according to a second alleged Toyota document quoted in the complaint, another Toyota technician reported a sudden acceleration incident and said he found "a mis-synchronism between engine speed and throttle position movement." The technician allegedly requested immediate action because of the "extremely dangerous problem" and said "we are also much afraid of frequency of this problem in near future."
According to the lawsuit another document, allegedly a Toyota dealership report, states that a Toyota dealer verified two separate SUA incidents with a 2005 Toyota Sequoia, and identified the probable cause as a "software issue of the engine control unit." In another case, the lawsuit claims a 2003 field technical report stated that a Toyota technician verified, in the words of the complaint, a "surge event . . . even where the scan tool showed no trouble code."
While the suit quotes from the documents, the attorneys told ABC News they did not attach the documents to the complaint and would not provide them to ABC News because of privacy concerns.
Consumer advocates and plaintiffs' attorneys have alleged that many of the sudden unintended acceleration complaints against Toyota stem from a defect with the vehicles' electronic throttle control system. Toyota has repeatedly denied that its vehicles have any electronic problems and has blamed sudden acceleration cases on driver error, floor mat entrapment, or sticky accelerator pedals.
The plaintiffs' filing comes in the wake of a Wall Street Journal article published Saturday that reported that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was preventing the release of information showing that cases of so-called "runaway Toyotas" could be attributed to driver error. The Journal interviewed a former NHTSA official who alleged that electronic data from suspected Toyota sudden unintended acceleration cases revealed that the gas pedal, not the brake, was applied at the time of the accident, implying that the driver had mistakenly pushed on the wrong pedal.
However, in Monday's filing, plaintiffs' attorneys charged that "one of Toyota's strategies in responding to SUA complaints even to the present time was to blame any report of SUA on driver error."
"This is just another example showing that Toyota knew about sudden, unintended accelerations and the dangers it poses to their customers," said Steve Berman, one of the attorneys representing plaintiffs in the class action suit. "To say it's driver error, we believe, is completely reckless. We intend to prove that Toyota cars are defective and the automaker is at fault for diminished car values. It's time they come up with a fix or let drivers give back their defective cars."
When contacted by ABC News, Toyota would not comment on the documents that allegedly show the company's technicians and dealers confirming sudden acceleration incidents. In reference to the class-action lawsuit, however, a Toyota spokesperson said, "To date, plaintiffs have not cited a specific cause that would support their claim of a defect in Toyota's Electronic Throttle Control System."
According to the spokesperson, "Toyota firmly believes that the system is completely safe and that reliable scientific evidence will demonstrate the safety of our vehicles in the investigations currently underway and, ultimately, to the court."