Rampant Toyota Rav4 Roof Leaks Lead To First Class-action Lawsuit; Owners Allege Safety-system Failures, Urge Nationwide Recall

30 March 2023

Class-action lawyers at Saltz Mongeluzzi Bendesky, P.C., yesterday filed the first lawsuit  against Toyota Motor Sales, USA, and affiliated companies including Toyota Motor Corporation alleging the roof-rail systems on 2019-2021 RAV4 models are defectively designed and manufactured. The defects result in rampant leaks from the roof that have caused severe water damage in the cabin, short-circuiting the SUV's electrical system, rendering the vehicle unsafe and inoperable. Plaintiffs are filing under consumer protection laws to hold Toyota responsible for its failures to protect all impacted RAV4 owners.

Attorney Patrick Howard, of SMB, and counsel to lead plaintiffs Todd and Judith Fishkind, said following the filing here in federal court, "Currently active retirees and involved grandparents, plaintiffs thought they were purchasing the perfect, safe SUV in their new, white 2019 RAV4. Instead, their 'dream' vehicle turned out to be undriveable and unsafe all  due to the preventable – by simply using a heavier-duty, water-repellent assembly gasket - roof-rail defect." Mr. Howard added, "As asserted in the complaint, Toyota knew about this defect, concealed it from buyers like the Fishkinds, and has now refused to cover the cost – in the thousands of dollars – to make it right."

"We were so looking forward to car vacations, driving grandkids to their games on weekends and after school," explained Mr. Fishkind. "Instead, our RAV4 – with only 28,000 miles - has been sitting on the dealer's lot awaiting repairs, including to the water-logged air-bag units and electrical system - for months, and Toyota's telling us we've got to pay for their design flaw that caused the damage that has totally ruined our RAV4. We never even used those roof rails. We are concerned about other unsuspecting RAV4 owners being injured in an accident because their air bags don't work or their car spontaneously shorts out due to a preventable leak. This has got to be corrected."

The complaint also details how water seeped into the car's electrical system – and the air bag assemblies - from the factory original equipment faulty-roof rail channels.  On models after 2021, according to the Complaint, Toyota replaced the thin, porous washer with a thicker part and the problem seemed to vanish. Besides ruining crucial safety equipment,  water in the 2019-2021 models can also cause growth of organic material, such as mold, to which the vehicle's occupants unknowingly may be exposed and could also result in significant rust damage.  Heading the SMB legal team with Mr. Howard is class-action attorney Simon Paris.