Dear Ted Frank...
Brett EmisonJuly 17, 2010 11:12 AM
(866) 735-1102 Ext 461
Ted Frank lied about me in a blog post (apparently without comments enabled), so I will answer his accusations here.
First, a little background.
On July 13, 2010, Ted Frank wrote a short blurb at overlawyered.com commenting on a bogus Wall Street Journal story that supposedly exonerated Toyota of fault in the sudden acceleration problem (at least regarding electrical causes of the defect). Among other sanctimonious things, Frank wrote:
Will plaintiffs’ lawyers who have been conspiracy-theorizing about a non-existent electronic defect withdraw their class actions and product-liability suits, much less apologize? How about AP and the news media? Don’t count on it.
The next day, it turns out that sources confirmed that Toyota itself had planted the report and that even Toyota conceded that the sudden acceleration investigation was far from finished.
So I made reference to Ted Franks' post in my round up of posts confirming that Toyota planted its own "we did nothing wrong" story. Specifically, I said:
So, to paraphrase Ted Frank at overlawyered, will Toyota apologists who have been blindly defending Toyota in the face of corporate malfeasance second only to BP apologize to the families of the hundreds of people killed by Toyota sudden acceleration? As he said... Don't count on it.
As you can see, I didn't personally attack Ted Frank. I didn't even really call him out that much. I simply turned his own snarky phrase (that was originally directed at trial lawyers) around on him.
This upset Ted Frank who then posted a reply (at a different blog site) (and that apparently did not have comments enabled when I viewed it) saying "Plaintiffs' lawyer lies about Toyota". Frank says I was "attacking him" and that I "claim[ed] (without any evidence) that Toyota misled the public...." He also said I made "multiple false statements." None of what Frank wrote is true.
Let's set the record straight.
(1) There have been more than 100 deaths reported as caused by sudden acceleration. For example, The Los Angeles Times reported at least 102 deaths from Toyota sudden acceleration back in March:
More than 100 deaths have now been blamed on sudden acceleration of Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles, nearly twice the number that had been reported two months ago, according to a Times review of public records.
Update [July 18, 2010]: Ted Frank continues to be obsessed with my use of the phrase "hundreds" in describing the number of reported Toyota sudden accelration deaths (see the additional update and Ted's comments below). Apparently, it is my use of this term ("hundreds") for which Frank has attempted to brand me a "liar".
Although I have clearly set forth the precise number to which I was referring in the two paragraphs above, let me include the dictionary definition of the term "hundreds" in order to confirm that I have used the term appropriately.
"4. hundreds, a number between 100 and 999, as in referring to an amount of money: Property loss was only in the hundreds of dollars."
"4. hundreds The numbers between 100 and 999: an attendance figure estimated in the hundreds."
(2) Toyota planted "inaccurate and misleading" statements and reports about an earlier NHTSA investigation very similar to Toyota's planting of the current misleading story. Toyota appears to have done the same thing again.
Federal safety regulators have sharply rebuked Toyota Motor Corp. for issuing "inaccurate and misleading" statements asserting that no defect exists in the 3.8 million vehicles it recalled after a Lexus sedan accelerated out of control in San Diego County, killing four people.
(3) No one is lying about Toyota. National and international experts have questioned what is actually causing Toyota's sudden acceleration problems. Many examples of sudden acceleration simply could not have happened the way Toyota says they are happening. The most telling example involves a man named Kevin Haggerty.
Haggerty owned a 2007 Toyota Avalon that experienced at least 5 different sudden acceleration events. Haggerty did not have accessory floor mats and his OEM mats were secured in place. Sticky pedals couldn't have caused the problem because he didn't have his foot on the pedal. On Haggerty's final incident, he was actually able to drive the vehicle while the engine was racing out of control into his local Toyota dealership.
He got to the parking lot, shifted to neutral and stopped the car with its brake smoking and engine racing out of control. He got out of the car and the engine was still racing (no pedal misapplication) Service technicians were able to look at he car and confirm the unintended acceleration was not caused by floor mats, sticking pedals or driver error. They also confirmed no computer error codes (meaning the computer was not detecting whatever was causing the problem).
(4) It is Toyota who attacks others.
(5) Toyota puts dollars (or in its case, Yen) in front of safety. Toyota even bragged that it saved $100 million by delaying the sudden acceleration recall. How many people had to die for Toyota to save its $100 million?
(6) Toyota said it did safety testing on sudden acceleration when it didn't. Toyota told Congress under oath that it hired a company called Exponent to investigate causes of sudden acceleration to help Toyota find out why it was occurring. That's not why Toyota hired Exponent. Exponent's actual report confirmed that Exponent was hired by Toyota's litigation defense attorneys to attack a professor from Southern Illinois University.
(7) Toyota lies. Probably too many time to document, but let's document a few.
No, Ted. I didn't lie. I didn't even exaggerate. Toyota's record on sudden acceleration is clear. But, I have to give you this - you have set yourself up a nice little straw man:
Assuming no political interference (a not especially-safe assumption in the Obama administration, which has repeatedly politicized science when it served its purposes), don't be surprised when the NHTSA report says exactly what the Journal reported it will.
No matter what NHTSA finds you will declare victory in another snarky "I told you so" post. If NHTSA's findings don't turn up an electronic defect and even if they are inconclusive, you'll declare victory. If NHTSA does find a problem, you'll simply blame it on interference from trial lawyers, the president, or maybe aliens from outer space.
Update [July 18, 2010]: Ted Frank continues to go off the deep end (I must have really hit a nerve). Frank updated his post to include more fiction, completely made up statistics, more lies and an additional comment claiming that I kill people for money. Wow.
The phony scandal ginned up by trial lawyers will, at the end of the day, have killed more people than the imaginary electronic defect. Remember: trial lawyer lies don't just steal, they kill.
In my original post on July 15, I said:
... will Toyota apologists who have been blindly defending Toyota in the face of corporate malfeasance second only to BP apologize to the families of the hundreds of people killed by Toyota sudden acceleration?
Then, in the response to Ted above, I said:
(1) There have been more than 100 deaths reported as caused by sudden acceleration.
Ted Frank ignores everything else posted above, but says these two particular statements about reported Toyota sudden acceleration deaths are lies. Ted is wrong.
I have cited to my work. I didn't make up these numbers. These numbers were reported by the Los Angeles Times. I'll address these issues in further detail below, but if Ted had actually taken the time to read what I have written, he would have seen that I never suggested all of these deaths resulted from electronic malfunctions. I simply stated that Toyota sudden acceleration had been linked to more than 100 deaths, which is exactly what was reported by the Los Angeles Times.
Ted Frank still has not enabled comments to his post. (Why is that Ted? You've been able to comment here.) Let me continue addressing his concerns here:
(8) I have never said that all sudden acceleration events are caused by electronic malfunctions. Certainly, Toyota has already admitted that some unintended acceleration events are caused by (a) floor mat interference; and (b) the "sticky" pedal defect. What I have said is that these two defects and even driver error or pedal misapplication cannot account for all of the reported sudden acceleration problems. See number (3), above. Experts -- not trial lawyers -- from around the world have concluded that electronic interference is the most likely culprit. Many experts believe there are several problems - including electronic problems - combining to create the sudden acceleration defect.
(9) The bottom line is that people are dying when they shouldn't. Toyota could have prevented the fast majority of these deaths - whether from floor mats, sticky pedals, electronics or even driver error - by installing a simple, cheap brake override system that has been in use by other car companies for more than a decade. It would have costs less than $1 per vehicle. Toyota didn't do it.
(10) Ted Frank takes umbrage with the Los Angeles Times report of 102 deaths related to sudden acceleration. Frank neglects to inform his readers that I did not conjure or make up that number. It was calculated by an investigative report from the journalists at the Times. The number also does not take into account any of those events that went unreported to NHTSA or others. In reality, the number is likely far higher.
But what if Ted Frank is right and the number is much lower? How many lives are enough to matter? 10 dead? 50 dead? 100 dead? 1,000 dead? What if one of those lives were a member of your family? Would you not have a right to hold the person (or even the company) responsible?
(11) Perhaps we shouldn't hold any company accountable for its products?
Maybe we should still be driving Ford Pintos, Chevy side-saddle gas tank pick ups, Ford Explorers with Firestone tires that rollover even with professional drivers at the wheel. Maybe we should still be putting fuel tanks between the rear bumper and rear axle where they can get crushed in a rear end collision. Maybe we don't need seat belts. Even if we have seat belts, perhaps we don't need a shoulder belt, especially in the rear center seat where it costs a little bit more to install. You know we have all those great government bureaucrats (bought and paid for by the car companies) certifying the testing the companies send in. I think Ted has convinced me.
Hmmm... maybe not.
Each of the vehicles or components above were certified to comply with federal minimum safety requirements ("FMVSS") and still people died from these defects.
Each of these auto safety defects were corrected because of the work of trial lawyers holding these companies accountable. You are safer when you drive because of the hard work and dedication of trial lawyers . Click here to see just a few of the automotive safety improvements brought about by trial lawyers.
(12) Which brings me to this point: I am not a thief and I don't kill people. I refuse to give your assertion to the contrary any credence by dignifying it with a further response.
(13) As a tort reform advocate, why do you want to give away your civil liberties? Why would you knowingly give up your right to counsel and your right to a jury trial? Imagine it was your own family that was injured or killed by an obviously defective vehicle. Would you really say, "Oh, well, the car company surely didn't mean to kill my family"? If you instead chose to hold the company responsibile, would you be able to afford the $500,000 it requires to take a major car company to trial? If you couldn't, you would have to rely on a trial lawyer to help you.
Are there a few bad trial lawyers out there? Yes, just like every profession has its own bad apples. However, the vast majority of trial lawyers - particularly those bringing complex and expensive litigation like that against Toyota and other car makers - do not file frivolous, meritless or even questionable lawsuits. Trial lawyers pay for these suits out of their own pocket. If a trial lawyer spends $500,000 on a meritless lawsuit and loses, it is the trial lawyer who bears the loss.
(14) As a trial lawyer, I work hard for my clients. None of my clients ever asked for their fate. For most of them, their fate was completely out of their control. I am proud of my work helping real people whose lives have been ruined by tragedy. I am proud that I have helped the families of those who have been injured, paralyzed, maimed, burned or killed - not by any fault of their own - but by the fault of others. I am proud that I take the risk and responsibility for giving my clients back just a portion of the life they had stolen from them.
(15) Your resorting to name calling and personal insults betrays your true character and motivation. Your vile hatred for these outstanding people is offensive and wrong. Instead, you defend negligent corporations no matter what they do. In your mind, Toyota did nothing wrong, even though they have admitted at least two defects, recalled more than 10 million vehicles and paid a $16.4 million fine.
(16) I have not lied. I have not exaggerated. I have cited and linked to my sources for every single fact on which I have relied.