Hybrids & Electrics

Toyota’s Getting Sued For Brake Issues In Hybrid Models

The owners of specific Toyota vehicles have filed a class-action lawsuit against the automaker because of a dangerous brake defect. The lawsuit, filed April 3, 2020, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, is centered around a brake defect that affects many thousands of Toyota vehicles including Avalon, Camry, and Prius models.

According to the attorneys at Hagens Berman, many reports from the owners of the affected vehicles detail how the defect causes intermittent brake failure, which raises the potential risk of injury and death.

What is the defect? Which specific Toyota models have the defect in question?

A class-action lawsuit

According to the lawsuit, hundreds of crashes have been reported as a result of the dangerous brake defect across several Toyota hybrid models. The lawsuit specifies the following affected models:

  • 2010-2015 Toyota Prius
  • 2010-2015 Toyota Prius PHV
  • 2012-2015 Toyota Prius v
  • 2012-2014 Toyota Camry Hybrid
  • 2013-2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

Allegedly, Toyota refuses to fix or replace the faulty elements in the brake system until after the vehicle experiences brake failure. The problem is that by then, it’s too late. 

When Toyota owners took the affected vehicles into their local dealerships about the issue with the brakes, Toyota didn’t let them know about the potential brake problems, according to the suit. According to the plaintiff, dealerships won’t make the repairs unless a specific diagnostic trouble code is registered by a specific fault sensor.

The class-action suit, according to CarComplaints.com, alleges that Toyota “manipulated” its warranty to minimize its obligation to repair vehicles with the brake defect. The plaintiff says Toyota deliberately delayed providing guidance on repairs until after warranties ran out. The automaker’s action shifted the cost of repairs to the consumers.

A serious brake defect

According to the folks at The Brake Report, the defect in question can occur in new and nearly new vehicles. It’s noticed when the driver is trying to apply the brakes in several situations like ice, rough surfaces, around potholes, and more. According to reports to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there are many conditions that reveal the defect, and it can lead to dangerous crashes.

According to Car Complaints, one plaintiff explained that driving over a rough surface in her car caused it to lurch forward when she attempted to put on the breaks.

According to Steve Berman, managing partner of the legal firm representing the Toyota owners in the case, the automaker has failed to take responsible action to prevent injury and save lives. He maintains that the defect in the brakes has caused accidents and injuries. Berman explains each day the issue isn’t dealt with is another day that could result in a fatality.

In the affected vehicles, the problem is the brake booster pump assembly in the brake system. With an unreasonable frequency, the system doesn’t effectively ensure the brakes work properly when the pedal is deployed. 

In a 2013 recall for a limited number of models, Toyota claimed the plunger design utilized pleated metal bellows for movement. Sealed between the plunger and the housing is nitrogen gas. If a crack developed in the bellows because of strong vibrations, like driving over a rough surface, the gas could leak into the brake fluid. The pedal stroke of the brake, as a result of the leak, could slowly become longer, causing a reduction in hydraulic pressure and impacting stopping distance when the brakes are applied.

Berman also explained that this isn’t the first time Toyota has been taken to task for a major safety defect. Hagens Berman also represented Toyota vehicle owners in what was then the biggest class-action suit against an automaker in history at the time back in 2013. That suit was centered around a defect in Toyota vehicles that caused erratic unintended acceleration. The result was Toyota paying $1.6 billion. 

What to do if you’re affected

If you own one of the affected models, your vehicle may be at risk. Hagens Berman, one of the firms representing the plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit against Toyota, invites you to contact them. If either Hagens Berman or any other involved firm achieves a settlement that benefits class members, the class legal team will be reasonably reimbursed for costs and legal fees as determined by the court. The firm says there is no fee or out-of-pocket cost to join in the case for affected Toyota owners.