Toyota, BMW, Mazda and Subaru have entered a $553 million settlement to resolve claims of a Takata airbag class action.

Deployed Airbag In Car

Four automakers have offered $553 million to resolve a class action lawsuit filed over the ongoing Takata airbag crisis, according to Reuters.

Four Automakers Settle Takata Class Action

The settlement, announced on Thursday, May 18, 2017, is designed to compensate car owners or lessees who have been inconvenienced by the Takata airbag recall, which has now come to impact at least 42 million vehicles. 19 automakers have been drawn into a controversy centered around Japanese-made airbags that can explode, fraudulent safety data and years of setbacks.

Rental Cars, Outreach & Residual Payments

While the class action in question involves a number of manufacturers, only four companies have joined in the recent settlement: Toyota, BMW, Mazda and Subaru.

  • Toyota - $278.5 million - 9.2 million cars
  • BMW - $131 million - 2.3 million cars
  • Mazda - $75.8 million - 1.7 million cars
  • Subaru - $68.2 million - 2.6 million cars
Each company is set to fund a number of initiatives intended to provide relief, including rental cars for owners with vehicles at high risk of airbag failure. Money left over may be used to pay affected car owners a "residual distribution payment of up to $500," say court documents filed on Thursday by a group of representative plaintiffs. The bargained agreement will cover around 16 million cars, NPR reports.

The class action's plaintiffs intend to prosecute their remaining claims, filed against Ford, Honda and Nissan, in subsequent court proceedings.

Injury & Death Lawsuits Remain Unaffected

Due to the use of an unstable propellant, Takata airbags can explode with little warning, sending shards of metal debris flying throughout a vehicle's cabin. At least 16 deaths have been linked to the airbags, along with hundreds of severe personal injuries. The risk is highest, according to government safety experts, in hotter regions with high humidity.

Notably, the recently-announced settlement does not involve any of the lawsuits filed over personal injuries or deaths caused by Takata's exploding airbags. Dozens of injury and death lawsuits have already been filed, against both Takata and individual automakers. Most cases have been resolved in settlement agreements, reports indicate, but the particulars of these deals are confidential.

Takata Recalls Stall Amid Alleged Fraud

The company behind these deadly airbags, Takata, entered a $1 billion settlement with the Justice Department this January. Three of the Japanese corporation's senior executives have been indicted on criminal charges of wire fraud and conspiracy, in connection to their roles in hiding the airbag's defects from auto regulators in the United States. Recall efforts have also been hampered by secrecy.

Evidence suggests that Takata, along with several automakers, withheld information on the problem's scope, allowing dangerous cars to remain on the road. In fact, some recalled vehicles have been receiving airbags identical to the recalled models.

According to the class action's plaintiffs, less than a third of the announced recalls have been completed to date. The settlement agreement includes a clause that will establish an enhanced outreach program to accelerate the process of contacting affected drivers.

The Legal Herald

About Laurence Banville

Attorney Contributor:

Laurence P. Banville, Esq. is the managing partner of Banville Law. He is a regular contributor on several topics including negligent security cases, child sexual abuse and Dram Shop and liquor liability cases.

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