The litigious relationship between Toyota and one of its former in-house counsel sounds like something out of Michael Clayton.
A federal judge ruled yesterday that claims by a former in-house counsel Dimitrios Biller that the company hid evidence in litigation involving rollover crashes will be heard by an arbitrator, Bloomberg reported.
Bloomberg: Biller sued Toyota, the world largest automaker, in July, claiming the company destroyed engineering and testing evidence relevant in more than 300 suits over sport-utility rollover accidents. Biller, who was sued by Toyota after he started a legal consulting business, accuses Toyota of racketeering, wrongful termination, infliction of emotional distress and defamation.
“Biller argues that the ‘severance agreement is unenforceable as against public policy because it is designed to keep secret defendants’ commission of crimes and fraud,'” [U.S. District Judge George] King said. “This is manifestly a challenge to the validity and enforceability of the agreement as a whole, and therefore, it must be arbitrated.”
Biller says he “suffered a complete mental and physical breakdown” after battling company executives over their insistence on hiding data, his complaint said. Biller has given a plaintiffs’ lawyer in Texas “hundreds of documents” that may contain evidence of the alleged document destruction, a statement from the lawyer said last month.
The ABA Journal discussed the case last month, and noted that a Toyota press release said Biller filed his whistle-blower suit after an adverse ruling in the lawsuit involving Biller’s use of Toyota documents.
Biller appears to be very personally invested in the cases. He flew from Los Angeles to Texas so he could deliver his boxes of documents personally, and told The Recorder he is “heavily medicated, so I function on a day-to-day basis.” He left Toyota with a $3.7 million severance package (the one he is alleging is not binding) and is accusing the comany of forcing him to quit.
Biller, a former Pilsbury, Madison & Sutro partner, said he would sometimes cry after he won a personal injury case for Toyota because he felt a lot of “empathy” for the plaintiffs.
“He was a real solid lawyer,” one former colleague told The Recorder. “But sometimes, he didn’t have the sense of when to let an issue go.”
The Recorder has a lengthy profile on Biller and the Toyota litigation here.
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