— A Toyota hybrid brake defect lawsuit alleges hundreds of crashes have been reported due to brake booster pump assembly problems that cause brake failures.
Toyota allegedly refuses to repair or replace the defective components until the vehicle experiences brake failures.
Included in the Toyota hybrid brake defect class action lawsuit are these models.
- 2010-2015 Toyota Prius
- 2010-2015 Toyota Prius PHV
- 2012-2015 Toyota Prius v
- 2012-2014 Toyota Camry Hybrid
- 2013-2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid
Ohio plaintiff Bonnie Hendricks says her Toyota Prius has suffered from the brake defect since she purchased the car in 2011. She says if she tries to slow down or stop when the Prius is traveling over a rough surface, the car will lurch or surge forward slightly when she pushes the brake pedal.
Hendricks says she called her Toyota dealership but the warranty and service departments allegedly told her they would not inspect the car unless she paid for it. The only way she wouldn't be charged would be if there was a hybrid brake defect recall.
In addition, the plaintiff alleges dealer technicians denied knowing anything about brake defects.
According to the plaintiff, Toyota should have told her about the alleged brake defect when she purchased the Prius. Hendricks says if she would have known, she wouldn't have purchased the Prius, or she would have paid less for it.
The class action makes the allegation that Toyota "manipulated" its warranty to decrease its obligations to repair the alleged brake defects.
Even when owners bring their vehicles to dealerships and complain about brake problems, Toyota allegedly fails to inform the customers about the brake defects. The plaintiff also alleges dealers won't make repairs unless a specific fault sensor registers a specific diagnostic trouble code.
The plaintiff also accuses Toyota of "delaying the issuance of repair guidance until vehicle warranties have run, so as to shift the costs of repair of its defective brakes from itself to unsuspecting consumers."
Toyota recalled 2010 Prius cars in 2010 to repair brake defects in the third generation models, the same Prius vehicles named in the class action. But the plaintiff says the braking components in the third generation cars are the same as those in second generation models.
And the plaintiff claims at the time of the 2010 recall, more than 400 brake complaints had been filed with the government about second generation Prius models.
The class action also says Toyota issued a technical service bulletin (T-SB-0174-12) in September 2012 about second generation Prius vehicles that told dealers to replace the computer assembly containing the software that controlled the braking system.
Titled “ABS/VSC DTC C1247 – Stroke Sensor Detection Logic Update,” the bulletin said the Prius cars may indicate error codes related to stroke sensor malfunctions.
According to the TSB, the diagnostic trouble code was triggered by “overly sensitive monitoring logic without any other ABS/VSC system issue.”
The plaintiff says the bulletin has Toyota admitting a defect exists because the monitoring logic is overly sensitive. In addition, the plaintiff alleges the automaker willfully delayed the publication of TSB 0174-12 until virtually all the second generation cars would be outside of the warranty periods.
Then in February 2013, Toyota announced a recall that allegedly relates directly to the brake booster pump assembly at issue in the hybrid cars. According to Toyota, the recall was issued due to “brake pressure accumulators consisting of a metal plunger containing brake fluid encased in a metal housing.”
The automaker said the “plunger is designed with metal pleated bellows to allow for motion,” and that “nitrogen gas is sealed between the plunger and the housing.”
Toyota said the recall was due to the “possibility that a fatigue crack could develop in the bellows due to the vertical vibration of the plunger while driving.” And that if this occurred, “nitrogen gas could leak into the brake fluid and gradually cause the brake pedal stroke to become longer, resulting in decreased hydraulic pressure.”
Toyota said this “could affect stopping distance and increase the risk of a crash.”
But Toyota allegedly didn't recall the majority of the affected cars because only 2010 Prius models were included.
In September 2019 Toyota issued TSB 0130-19 for 2012-2014 Camry Hybrids and 2013-2015 Avalon Hybrids because of problems with the brake booster assemblies.
Toyota also extended the warranties, but the plaintiff says only a small fraction of the cars were included. The lawsuit also says a car must register a diagnostic trouble code that indicates the leak and failure already occurred.
A customer support program (ZJB) was also announced in 2018 covering 2010-2015 Prius and Prius PHV (Plug-In Hybrid) cars which would have their brake booster and brake booster pumps replaced if one of four trouble codes registered.
But the plaintiff says the program was only for cars that had already experienced brake problems.
In 2019, Toyota announced customer program ZKK for 2013-2015 Avalon Hybrids with the same diagnostic and repair details as program ZJB. According to the class action, customers were told they would have to pay the diagnostic costs if no trouble codes were found.
Both customer support programs cover about 1.1 million hybrid vehicles allegedly equipped with defective brake boosters and pumps.
The plaintiff argues that Toyota should refund the purchase price of the hybrid vehicles or refund the alleged "overpayment or diminution in value" of the vehicles.
The Toyota hybrid brake defect lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Western Division at Cincinnati: Hendricks, et al., v. Toyota Motor Corporation, et al.
The plaintiff is represented by Minnillo & Jenkins, CO. LPA, and Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP.