Toyota seeks to block executive testimony in suit

Toyota seeks to block executive testimony in suit

Automotive News | March 10, 2010 – 12:01 am EST

UPDATED: 3/10/10 4:48 p.m. ET

DETROIT (Reuters) — A Michigan appeals court today granted a stay requested by Toyota Motor Corp. that delays testimony by two top U.S. company executives in a case about a crash that killed a woman driving a Camry in 2008.

The Michigan Court of Appeals will hold a hearing to determine if the executives can be deposed, said plaintiff’s attorney Eric Snyder. The hearing date has not been set, Snyder said.

Toyota Motor North America President Yoshi Inaba and Jim Lentz, head of U.S. sales for Toyota, had been ordered by a lower court to be deposed this Thursday and Friday.

The appeals court on Wednesday stayed that lower court’s ruling.

Toyota’s attorneys say that neither of the top executives can offer unique testimony in the matter, papers filed with the appeals court show. Toyota’s attorneys argue that Michigan law requires plaintiff attorneys to seek information from lower-ranking company executives before seeking high-ranking executives.

Snyder said Lentz and Inaba have already testified before Congress on the issue of Toyota’s problems with uncontrollable acceleration and should be able to offer valuable information in the case involving the death of a Flint, Mich., woman in one of their vehicles.

In April 2008, Guadalupe Alberto, 78, was killed while driving a Camry on her street when, witnesses said, it accelerated to more than 80 miles per hour before crashing into a tree.



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