Morgan & Morgan has filed a class action lawsuit against Toyota Motor North America, Inc. alleging that several of the company’s Highlander model vehicles have defective liftgates that can break and prevent the vehicles’ rear doors from closing. Toyota allegedly knew about this problem since at least 2010 but failed to issue a recall or otherwise warn consumers. Because the problem typically does not manifest until after drivers’ warranties have expired, the lawsuit alleges that thousands of Toyota Highlander owners have each spent nearly $5,000 of their own money to repair the broken liftgates.
Which Models Are Affected?
The defect is allegedly present in – including but not limited to – the following Toyota models:
- Highlander XU20
- Highlander XU40
- Highlander XU50
- Highlander Hybrid MHU28
Plaintiff Alleges Her 2009 Toyota Highland Liftgate Got Stuck in the Open Position
According to the plaintiff, the rear power liftgate on her 2009 Toyota Highlander became stuck in the open position after the vehicle’s power lift arm broke off the gate and caused the driver-side hinge to bow. As a result, the plaintiff claims that the car was not safe to drive and that she had to obtain a rental car while her Highlander was repaired. While the plaintiff submitted a warranty claim to Toyota for the cost to repair the liftgate, which amounted to $4,700, her claim was denied because the vehicle’s 3-year/36,000 mile warranty period had expired.
The class action seeks to cover all persons who formerly or currently own or lease the Highlander vehicles in question, and is requesting compensation for the cost of liftgate repairs, the lost value of the vehicles, and any other expenses drivers incurred as a result of the allegedly defective liftgates. The plaintiff is also seeking punitive damages to deter such conduct in the future.
Toyota Issues Service Bulletin for Highlander Liftgate Problems
In 2012, Toyota sent a service bulletin to its dealerships warning that “some 2008 – 2012 model year Highlander HV vehicles may exhibit a condition where the power back door does not close properly.” The bulletin recommended that dealers inspect the liftgate doors on certain Highlanders for any gaps between the bolts that connect the power lift arms to the rear gates. If gaps were present, the dealers were instructed to replace both back door hinges and the panel sub-assembly; however, the company did not send this bulletin to drivers and never announced a recall for the affected vehicles.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiff alleges that Toyota knew about the liftgate problems long before the company issued the service bulletin. Since at least 2011, Highlander owners complained about these liftgate problems to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, and some even posted stories about their broken liftgates on Toyota forums; however, the company allegedly ignored these complaints and thousands of Highlander owners were forced to pay for liftgate repairs out of pocket, according to the lawsuit.