Monday, April 4, 2011

Deal Reached on Access to Toyota's Source Code

Toyota Motor Corp. has agreed on the final details about how to turn over its source code, the "crown jewels" of the company, to the lead plaintiffs lawyers in the multidistrict litigation over sudden acceleration.

The plaintiffs lawyers insist that the source code will provide evidence that defects in the electronic throttle-control system caused sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles. Toyota has maintained there are no problems with the electronics but has agreed to turn over its source code to plaintiffs' engineers under stringent security.
On March 31, U.S. District Judge James Selna, who is overseeing the case in Santa Ana, Calif., signed an order under seal approving the deal.
"Toyota is pleased to have reached an agreement on a source code protective order that ensures the security and strict confidentiality of this invaluable intellectual property," said Toyota spokeswoman Celeste Migliore.
"Even after more than a year of litigation, plaintiffs' counsel have still offered no credible scientific theory or even a description of an alleged defect in Toyota's Electronic Throttle Control System, and we are confident the evidence will show that no such defect exists," she said. "We hope the source code review will proceed expeditiously so this case can move to trial as soon as possible, and we look forward to defending ourselves vigorously in court at that time."
Among the security measures in place are iris scans required for entry into a secure room in a neutral facility where the source code can be accessed. Engineers are required to print documents on numbered paper containing radio-frequency tags.
Both sides were close to an agreement but hit an impasse in recent weeks over which computers would have access to the source code. During a March 15 court hearing, lawyers on both sides came up with a compromise to have the source code provided on a single computer located in a locked vault, while the engineers worked in the secured room.
But Toyota's lead lawyer on the source code issues, Joel Smith, managing partner of the Columbia, S.C., office of Bowman and Brooke, told Selna at that time that he was having trouble getting approval from Toyota executives in light of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Mark Robinson, a senior partner at Newport Beach, Calif.-based Robinson, Calcagnie & Robinson, who is co-lead counsel on one of the plaintiffs' steering committees in the case, confirmed to The National Law Journal that the parties had reached an agreement on the final issue.
"Without getting into the specifics of the security at this place, we did come to an agreement on this protected vault or lock box," he said.
Robinson has said that he expects the secure room to be set up quickly so that his engineers can analyze more than 8 million lines of Toyota's source code.
Toyota has recalled 8 million vehicles and paid $48.8 million in civil penalties due to defective gas pedals and floor mats attributed to sudden acceleration.

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