Levi Stewart lost his life after the steering relay rod on his 1991 Toyota pickup snapped, causing the truck to roll. Officials labeled the accident alcohol-related due to the fact the teenager had a blood-alcohol level of .03 (legal limit for adults in his state over the age of 21 is .08), but that was before anyone involved with the investigation knew of a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recall. The relay rod, which connects the steering wheel to the front tires, had been under recall since 2005, but neither the truck owner or the previous owner had been notified of the defect.

Lawyers for the Stewart family are accusing Toyota of both delaying and improperly distributing the recall notice, which affected 1 million trucks and SUVs. The lawyers contend they have evidence that Toyota has known about the problem since as early as 1996, yet the recall didn't begin until 2005. Toyota actually started the recall in Japan a year earlier, and Toyota waited a full year before starting the recall action in the U.S. The reason Toyota has stated for the delay was that driving conditions were different in Japan, and that there were no incidents reported in the U.S. Japanese media told NBC that it knew of 80 incidents in Japan. Hit the jump to view NBC's investigational video. Hat tip to Michael


Related GalleryToyota grilled over truck recall

[Source: NBC Los Angeles]