As Takata declares bankruptcy, Honda says the company has identified the 11th US victim to die of injuries caused by an exploding airbag.
By Laurence Banville
In an announcement released on Monday, July 10, 2017, embattled Japanese automaker Honda confirmed the 11th US death caused by an exploding Takata airbag. The fatal explosion, which Honda says took place in June of last year, claimed the life of an individual performing repairs on a 2001 Honda Accord, the New York Times reports. Investigations have revealed that the decedent, who was not the vehicle's owner, accidentally activated the airbag's inflator mechanism, leading to a rupture of the metal component as the airbag expanded.
Takata Death Brings Recall Struggles Into ReliefHonda only learned of the incident, according to spokesperson Chris Martin, after a wrongful death lawsuit was filed against the company. The vehicle's owners, Martin continued, had received no less than 12 hard copy notices about the airbag's dangers, along with details on recall options, over the course of the last seven years. The necessary repairs, the company's statement suggests, were never performed. Around 300,000 Honda automobiles may be in a similar situation, according to Reuters.
These cars, driven in "high-risk" areas of high humidity and temperature, remain unrepaired.
Deadly Airbags Remain In UseAt least 17 deaths have now been linked to Takata's fatally-flawed airbag technology, including 12 fatalities in the United States. Most of these deaths have involved Honda-made vehicles.
Takata's efforts to recall millions of deadly airbags have been widely-criticized as inadequate and negligent. The push to take these dangerous vehicle components off the road began nearly a decade ago, in 2008, when Honda recalled around 4,000 cars. The 2001 Accord implicated in the most recent fatal accident was among them. Over the next nine years, Takata's recall would expand to include tens of millions of vehicles, drawing manufacturers from Ford to Ferrari.
Many reports, however, suggest strong evidence that both Takata and automakers hid damning evidence from government officials, allowing a true public safety crisis to spin out of control.
Takata Bankruptcy Pauses Injury & Death LawsuitsThe resulting fallout has seen Takata, a vehicle parts manufacturer from Japan, fined $1 billion by US federal agencies for tampering with safety data, a charge to which the company pleaded guilty. High-level company executives have come under federal indictment, as the corporation's management was ordered to establish a $125 million to compensate injury victims and their families.
Individually-filed personal injury lawsuits and wrongful death claims, however, are still pending in courts across the country. For now, those lawsuits will have to wait for their day in court.
Takata filed for bankruptcy in June, announcing shortly thereafter that Chinese company Key Safety Systems had agreed to pay $1.6 billion for most of the airbag and seatbelt manufacturer's operations. As a result, pending lawsuits against the company were put on hold, as Takata's financial situation is hashed out in bankruptcy court. The money secured in the company's sale, meanwhile, will go a long way toward paying the government fine and seeding a victim compensation fund, but legal experts say there may be no remaining capital to compensate automakers who were defrauded by Takata.