Rep. Henry Waxman (D., Calif.) said that this week’s Congressional hearings into alleged “sudden acceleration” of Toyota vehicles were called to take “a serious look at the possibility that electronic defects could be causing the problem.”
But nothing serious was ever intended to come out of these hearings. That much is evident from the witness lists. This was a show trial rigged for tort lawyers.
Toyota claims no pattern of unintended acceleration, but instead says random instances of floor mat failure or pedal sticking have caused problems. Waxman and his tort allies say the last decade’s “increased reliance on electronics can bring new risks, and these need to be carefully examined.”
So bring on the engineers and let’s talk data. But there were no independent engineers within shouting distance of Tuesday’s Energy and Commerce Committee hearing or Wednesday’s Oversight and Government Reform Committee circus.
The only “automotive experts” on Waxman’s Tuesday panel were Sean Kane of Safety Research and Strategies, Inc. and David Gilbert, Assistant Professor of Automotive Technology at Southern Illinois University. In a testy exchange, Rep. Steve Buyer (R., Indiana) quickly unmasked Kane as a paid impostor hired by tort lawyers — not the disinterested expert advertised by committee leadership. And Gilbert? He was paid by Kane.
Wednesday’s “experts” were worse. Public Citizen’s Joan Claybrook and Clarence Ditlow of the Center for Auto Safety are not just tort stooges — they have themselves endorsed either fraudulent or dangerous auto practices.
If America’s Toyota owners turned on their television looking for answers to questions about vehicle safety and technology, they were misled. This week was a trial run of sensationalistic tort lawsuits to come.