This lawsuit claims that Toyota incorporated soy-based materials or components in certain vehicles’ electrical wiring systems that bait rodents and other animals, including rats, squirrels, and other pests, to the vehicles and entice them to chew through, eat, or otherwise damage and compromise the wiring and the wiring insulation.
One plaintiff in this lawsuit, Heidi Browder, is a resident of Burleson, Texas. In November 2015, Browder and her husband purchased a 2015 Toyota Avalon from Family Toyota in Burleson. One November 21, 2016, she tried to start her Avalon multiple times but the engine would not turn over and the car made no noise or sounds. The car was parked in their garage, as always. Browder and her husband lifted the hood of the car and noticed a rodent scurry across the top of the engine. The vehicle was towed to Family Toyota, and a technician there informed them the damage would cost between $5,600 and $6,000 to repair. The repairs were covered by her insurance company, but Browder still had to pay a $500 deductible. When Browder asked Toyota why they did not cover the damage under her warranty, they responded saying that “any outside source of damage to the car” is not covered. Further, the representative stated that rodent damage is “not uncommon” and that the rodent damage “happens a lot” with Toyota vehicles.
Electrical systems in a vehicle deliver and monitor electrical power to various devices and sensors in the vehicle. When an electrical component is not working correctly, it is often caused by an open circuit, which can result from a broken or compromised wire or wire connections. When this occurs, vehicle functions that are imperative to safe vehicle operation (headlights, brake lights, windshield wipers, power windows, defrosters, etc.) may not work properly. Historically, automobile wiring was coated or covered with a glass, plastic, or polymer-based insulation. Over the past decade, in light of rising oil prices, automotive manufactures have been exploring new matierials and to make parts more recyclable. As a result, automobile manufacturers, including Toyota, migrated from petroleum-based wire insulation to soy-based insulation because it became considerably less expensive and is purportedly more environmentally-friendly.
Toyota made the decision to switch its wiring insulation to soy-based material in order to cut costs and increase profits, not to help the environment. Rather than helping the global environment, Toyota created an environment inside of their vehicles that invited rodents to destroy electrical components. Based on records of customers’ complaints, dealership repair records, NHTSA records, warranty and post-warranty claims, internal durability testing, and other sources, Toyota was aware of the problem and chose not to inform vehicle owners.
Based on the facts of the case, the plaintiffs in this class action lawsuit allege that Toyota violated the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, violated the Texas Deceptive Trade Practice Act, breach the express warranty, breached the implied warranty of merchantability, and was unjustly enriched at the expense of consumers.