Montgomery attorney who took on Toyota reacts to $1.2B settlemen

Montgomery attorney who took on Toyota reacts to $1.2B settlement

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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

Toyota has agreed to pay $1.2 billion and admit it mislead the public about its vehicles' safety.

The agreement announced Wednesday is part of a deal with the federal government after a four-year investigation involving Toyota vehicles that accelerated unintentionally.

The issues led to multiple deaths and massive recalls in 2009, and it all seemed to have started with a Montgomery connection.

It's believed much of the outcome with the criminal investigation was made possible due to a lawsuit handled by local law firm Beasley Allen.

Attorneys represented two families in Oklahoma who took on the corporation in October and won. The jury then found the company acted with reckless disregard for the rights of others.

The Justice Department agreed saying Wednesday that Toyota conducted a cover up and misled the public about safety issues behind recalls.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says the company protected its brand ahead of its own customers. Attorney Jere Beasley says this is another step to provide comfort to families who lost loved ones and hopefully to hold corporations accountable.

"That is a very significant thing, they admitted liability. That's the first time that has happened in a criminal plea. Most of the time they plead guilty, but under the agreement they say we really didn't do anything wrong. Here they know they did," Beasley said.

Now the law firm plans to go after another car manufacturer, General Motors. GM is already on the hot seat with the federal government. The company is being investigated for it's slow response to a faulty ignition switch. It's believed to be the cause of at least 13 deaths.

Beasley says that number is believed to be much greater -- at least 300 people killed due to the malfunction.

"Multiple families who've engaged our services and we will be filing cases very soon. We want to be sure before we filed them that there was liability there and that what we have suspected was true. Now we know that our worst fears really were, exactly true," Beasley said.

General Motor officials have made clear they are cooperating fully with federal regulators. Currently more than 3 million vehicles are under recall.

As far as Toyota goes, they will pay the fine and are also charged with wire fraud. The company has already paid $1.6 billion to car owners who sued along with millions in other federal fines.

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