The owner of a 2005 Toyota 4Runner is the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit filed in South Carolina. Hundreds of 4Runner owners joined the suit over defective rusting issues. They are represented by Environmental Litigation Group, P.C. lawyer Gregory Cade, who answers questions about the class action lawsuit.
Q: What is the Toyota 4Runner lawsuit about?
A: The class-action lawsuit alleging Toyota 4Runner vehicles have a severe rust defect that makes them too dangerous to drive was filed in 2018 in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina.
Plaintiff Gary Weinreich filed a lawsuit against Toyota Motor Corporation and its U.S. affiliates, alleging the premature rusting of the frame of 4Runners. The issue is that the frames for certain model year Toyota 4Runner have been manufactured with inadequate rust-resistant protection.
Currently, the express and implied warranty claims are proceeding. Plaintiff alleges that Toyota knew at the time of sale about the rusting issue in their brand new cars that would manifest after the dealer’s warranty expired.
In 2005, Plaintiff bought a Toyota 4-Runner and claims that the company knew about inadequate rust protection based on issues with the frames of prior truck models. Mechanics saw severe corrosion of his SUV’s undercarriage in 2011 and 2013 but did not report it as a safety concern.
In 2017, a mechanic told him his truck had frame corrosion and that Toyota had a customer support program for corrosion issues in other models.
Subsequently, in May 2018, Plaintiff was driving the 4-Runner when the front right control arm, part of the suspension system, broke off the corroded frame, causing him to lose control. He says in the complaint that, after the accident, a mechanic “declared the vehicle unrepairable and inoperable.”
Q: What is the current status of the matter?
A: Plaintiff Gary Weinreich is currently pursuing warranty claims against Toyota on behalf of a proposed class of 4Runner owners.
So far, another 100 individuals in South Carolina and 50 more in the other states have joined the federal class-action lawsuit filed by Weinreich in 2018. We anticipate over 5k claims will be filled in the next six months.
Q: What year 4Runner should consumers avoid?
A: The issue of premature rust corrosion was found to affect 4Runners from the fourth generation, namely the 2003-2009 models. The lawsuit filed by Gary Weinreich has to do specifically with these trucks.
However, numerous owners claim that the excessive rust corrosion of the frame also concerns 2009-2011 4Runner models. If you have purchased a defective Toyota 4runner truck, you may be eligible to file a claim in the ongoing lawsuit against Toyota Motor Corp.
Q: How widespread is the problem?
A: During 2003-2009, Toyota sold 585,705 4Runners in the U.S., all equipped with frames improperly treated against rust corrosion.
Everyone who owns a 4Runner from the fourth generation will notice premature rust corrosion on the frame of their truck at some point, mainly if they live in a state with primarily cold weather.
These are the ten states with the highest number of 4Runner drivers:
- North Carolina
- New York
We expect to witness more and more people from these states, whose frame of their Toyota 4Runner has been severely affected by premature rust corrosion, join the lawsuit.
Q: How many 4Runner owners are pursuing a frame corrosion settlement?
A: From what we have seen, everyone that checks undercarriage and sees the rust will file for a claim. The undercarriage is really bad, so consumers are appalled and realize how dangerous the truck can be in a collision.
Q: Has Toyota had previous issues with undercarriage rusting in other trucks?
A: The 4Runner action echoes a class-action filed in 2016 but covering different Toyota trucks. The previous class-action covered 2005 – 2010 Tacoma models, 2007 – 2008 Tundras, and 2005 – 2008 Sequoias.
Plaintiffs in the 2016 lawsuit claimed that they had sustained economic losses as a result of the frame of their vehicles prematurely deteriorating beyond repair. Additionally, they alleged Toyota had engaged in deceptive marketing practices, as it had been aware of this serious problem of their SUVs but had not taken any measures to solve it.
Q: What cases have come to trial?
A: Only the 2016 lawsuit covering Tacoma, Tundra, and Sequoia trucks has come to trial.
Q: Have any lawsuits been settled?
A: In 2017, Toyota settled the Tacoma, Tundra, and Sequoia class-action suit by agreeing to spend $3.4 billion to repair 1.5 million SUVs with rusting frames. The 4Runner class-action suit is still pending.
Dana Holding Corporation, the frame manufacturer, was required to pay $25 million to Toyota as part of the settlement. The lawyers who provided legal assistance and representation to the plaintiffs estimated the value of frame replacement based on a cost of $15,000 per vehicle.
Q: What were the terms of the previous rusting problems settlements?
A: The settlement paid for inspecting and replacing frames on Tundra, Sequoia, and Tacoma trucks. It also allowed the manufacturer to avoid admitting any wrongdoing.
It wasn’t the first time the automaker dealt with the rust issue on its pickup trucks. Toyota fixed the rusting frames on the 1995-2000 model Tacomas. It even extended the warranty for rust perforation to over 800,000 vehicles. The automaker also had to recall the 2001-2003 model Tundras for rusty frames. And Tacomas from 2005-2011 were recalled for leaf springs that could rust and break.
Q: Has Toyota done anything in new models to improve the longevity of the frame?
Although newer models are better in terms of rust resistance, it is advisable to protect your car against corrosion. The Tundra, Sequoia, Tacoma, and 4Runner should be among the first vehicles to be equipped with new frames in a program of structural innovation – Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA). The new platform should improve ride safety by converting the trucks to lighter-weight construction materials.
Q: Has there been a Toyota 4Runner rusted frame recall?
A: While Toyota Motor Corporation issued a recall on their Tacomas, Sequoias, and Tundras after the lawsuit filed in 2016 was settled for $3.4 billion, there has not been a recall concerning the premature rust corrosion issue of the frames of 4Runners yet.
Nevertheless, Weinreich and the other Plaintiffs involved in the ongoing lawsuit against the company are adamant that a recall on the Toyota 4Runners manufactured between 2003 and 2009 should have been issued long ago. They allege there is indisputable evidence that Toyota had prior knowledge of this problem but failed to take the necessary measures to remediate it.
Q: Have authorities noticed the Toyota 4Runner rusting problem?
A: In 2018, after multiple complaints from owners of defective Toyota 4Runners have been brought to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) attention, the agency opened a complete investigation into the 2002-2006 vehicles. The majority of complaints stated that the excessive frame rusting of 4Runners was “resulting in difficulty controlling the vehicle.”
Here is what the agency has found and done in respect to the 2002-2006 models:
- 2002 Toyota 4Runners: 239 complaints, one investigation, three recalls
- 2003 Toyota 4Runners: 665 complaints, two investigations, three recalls
- 2004 Toyota 4Runners: 599 complaints, two investigations, two recalls
- 2005 Toyota 4Runners: 379 complaints, two investigations, five recalls
- 2006 Toyota 4Runners: 332 complaints, two investigations, five recalls
Q: Is Toyota responding to 4Runner owners’ allegations?
A: In 2019, in response to the lawsuit filed by Gary Weinreich, Toyota Motor Corp. asked for a motion of dismissal, asserting that “the plaintiff fails to establish any legitimate claims against the automaker.”
Nevertheless, in respect of the same lawsuit, one of their spokesmen said that the safety of their customers is a top priority.
Q: What injuries can I sustain in a car accident?
A: The frame is the main structure that supports the pickup truck. Therefore, if it becomes severely affected by rust corrosion, it will fail to protect you in a potential traffic crash.
Excessive rust on the frame of your vehicle can cause numerous other problems that may, in turn, lead to crashes, such as head-on collisions, T-bone car accidents, side collisions, vehicle rollovers, and single-car accidents.
As for the injuries you can sustain due to a crash that occurred due to excessive rusting of the frame, the most serious and even life-threatening include the following:
- traumatic brain injuries
- severe whiplash
- fractured bones
- spinal cord damages
- loss of limbs
- permanent scarring
- internal bleeding
- head injuries
- face injuries
- compound fractures
- soft tissue damage
- back injuries
- dislocated bones
- knee injuries
- shoulder injuries
- herniated disc
While wearing your seatbelt may lessen the severity of your injuries, an SUV crash can still be fatal. For this reason, if you know that your 4Runner has a rusting frame problem, it is best to avoid driving it until Toyota replaces your frame free of charge.
About Gregory Cade
Gregory Cade is the principal attorney of Environmental Litigation Group, P.C. Mr. Cade and his legal team specialize in pursuing compensation for consumers injured by defective products. Relying on his solid and vast scientific background, for the past two decades, Gregory Cade has provided legal assistance to thousands of individuals and communities in Alabama and neighboring states.