Millions of defective Takata airbags have been recalled over a high-risk defect, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The faulty airbags have been linked to over 100 hundred severe personal injuries and at least 14 deaths. Government safety officials say the Japanese auto parts supplier Takata is behind the “largest and most complex” safety recall in American history.
Severe Injuries, Death Lead To Takata Airbag Lawsuits
As years of investigative reporting have now revealed, vehicles from nearly 30 well-known manufacturers were installed with faulty airbags, which can over-inflate quickly in the event of a crash and explode. Rupturing the airbag’s inflator, these explosions have sprayed vehicle occupants with metal shrapnel.
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Takata’s defective airbags have already caused tragic results. Some drivers have been left permanently disabled. Others have been killed.
Today, victims are beginning to step forward. Filing a wave of personal injury lawsuits against Takata, injured drivers say the company withheld crucial safety evidence from government regulators – preventing a full recall for over a decade. These survivors have been joined by multiple families, who claim in their wrongful death lawsuits that a Takata-made airbag led to the death of a loved one.
Company “Quick To Settle”
While this litigation has grown in recent months, injured vehicle owners have actually been filing Takata airbag lawsuits for years.
In 2014, Bloomberg News uncovered a series of confidential settlements between injury victims and Takata, along with major auto manufacturers like Honda, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler. Every lawsuit involved the alleged explosion of a Takata airbag. But word of these undisclosed settlements rarely reached the public. “Quick, secret deals” – often hammered out before victims’ attorneys could even acquire evidence – kept vehicle owners and reporters largely in the dark. “It almost seemed like they were going to pay us off to shut us up,” one personal injury attorney told Bloomberg of his own client’s Takata-led settlement agreement.
Takata and the vehicle manufacturers have been quick to settle most airbag cases, according to independent reporting from Reuters. Most legal experts believe that the companies’ willingness to settle is motivated, not by a desire to help injured victims and grieving families, but in an attempt to prevent further revelations of corporate wrongdoing.
More recently, Takata reached a surprise settlement in the case of Patricia Mincey, a woman who became a quadriplegic after one of Takata’s defective airbags violently exploded, crushing her spine. Takata announced a settlement in Mincey’s lawsuit on July 15, 2016 – only hours before the judge was to decide whether Shigehisa Takada, the company’s chief executive, should be forced to provide sworn testimony. Mincey died from complications of her condition only four months before the settlement was announced.
How Was Safe Technology Turned Into A Deadly Weapon
With each new development, Takata appears more and more the caricature of a corrupt and callous enterprise.
Today, the company is one of only four corporations that supply a majority of the world’s airbags. In the 1990s, however, Takata was primarily a supplier of seat-belts. The company’s then-fledgling airbag division had failed to make much of an impact. Costs were high, Takata’s airbags were expensive and auto manufacturers seemed satisfied with their existing arrangements. Satisfied, that is, until Takata made a seemingly insignificant change in their airbag technology, a change that would eventually spark the largest safety recall in American history.
The Science Of Airbags
To deploy properly, airbags harness the power of a controlled explosion. This explosion creates gases, which inflate a vinyl bag that cushions drivers and passengers in the event of a crash. At the heart of this process is a chemical propellant, a compound that – when ignited – generates the rush of gas.
Most airbag manufacturers use sodium azide as a propellant, Scientific American reports. Despite being the key component in a controlled explosion, sodium azide is remarkably stable and safe during normal vehicle operation. But sodium azide is also expensive.
With its airbag business quickly failing, Takata chose to switch sodium azide for ammonium nitrate in the late 1990s.
“Cheap” is an astoundingly accurate word to describe ammonium nitrate. The chemical compound is far less expensive than sodium azide, but far more dangerous. Unlike the industry-standard propellant, ammonium nitrate is highly volatile and prone to degrade over time, especially when exposed to humidity. After degrading, the chemical becomes an explosion waiting to happen.
These facts were well-known when Takata decided to rely on ammonium nitrate as the essential component in its airbags. In fact, the company’s own engineers raised serious safety concerns over the switch. Mark Lillie, a former Takata employee who spoke to the New York Times in 2014, says his warnings were quickly dismissed. Companies, after all, are in the business of profit.
Over the next decade, Takata became a giant in the world of airbags. Vehicle manufacturers quickly embraced the company’s new, cheap technology. Soon, tens of millions of vehicles worldwide were being installed with Takata-made airbags. The empire, however, was not fated to last.
Admission Of Failure To Issue Safety Recall
The first reported explosion of a Takata airbag came in 2004. But the first recall was only issued in 2008, a voluntary withdrawal of 4,000 vehicles announced by Honda. This lapse, a full four years, is not hard to explain – at least when you speak to former employees of Takata.
After the first explosion, the company moved to investigate, sending employees to search scrapyards around its Michigan headquarters for airbags to test. Fifty airbags were found and, under controlled conditions, engineers rigorously analyzed the devices’ structural integrity. In at least two tests, an airbag’s inflator developed cracks, greatly increasing the risk of an explosion. But these results were not reported to government safety regulators, according to former Takata employees who related their story to the New York Times. Instead, the engineers say that executives instructed them to “delete the testing data from their computers.” They threw the cracked inflators in the trash.
Honda would only expand its early recall in 2010, after at least three deaths and dozens of serious injuries. Toyota, Mazda, BMW and Nissan would follow suit in 2013. Since then, an estimated 1 in 8 US vehicles have been recalled due to a defective – and dangerous – Takata airbag.
Government Fines Takata $70 Million, Accelerates Recall
The government says that Takata “misled regulators” for years, concealing safety evidence and providing falsified reports since at least 2009. In 2015, the company was fined $70 million – in cash – for failing to warn officials in time. In a Consent Order imposed by the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration, Takata “admitted that it was aware of a defect but failed to issue a timely recall,” violating the Motor Vehicle Safety Act in the process. Takata agreed to phase out the use of ammonium nitrate in airbags and fired key staff members.
In the face of Takata’s alleged deception, The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration has taken unprecedented action. The federal agency has developed a schedule for ongoing recalls, which are usually organized by manufacturers themselves, focusing the most intense efforts on high-risk regions:
- South Carolina
- Southern California
- American Samoa
- Northern Mariana Islands
- Puerto Rico
- US Virgin Islands
The risk of an explosion is greatest in areas with high humidity and high temperatures, safety regulators say. Explosions, however, have also been reported outside of these designated regions, as well as internationally. In Malaysia, at least four drivers have been killed in accidents linked to Takata airbags.
The NHTSA says it will force expanded recalls if the companies involved prove uncooperative.
File A Personal Injury Lawsuit
Dozens of people have already filed personal injury lawsuits against Takata and vehicle manufacturers. Many families have also joined the litigation, filing wrongful death lawsuits in memory of deceased loved ones.
Due to their similarity, these cases have been “consolidated” in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Under the leadership of Chief Judge Federico A. Moreno, the lawsuits will move through pre-trial proceedings as a group.
The experienced product liability attorneys at Banville Law believe that dozens, if not hundreds, of other victims and families, may be able to pursue significant financial compensation. If you or a loved one were injured or killed in an explosion linked to one of Takata’s airbags, we urge you to reach out for a free legal consultation.
Victims who live outside the United States are also eligible to file Takata airbag lawsuits. In fact, the first wrongful death lawsuit against Takata – eventually settled for an undisclosed sum – was filed on behalf of a Malaysian woman allegedly killed due to a Takata airbag.
Latest Airbag Injury Updates
By Laurence P. Banville
February 28, 2018 – Australian Government Requires Recall Of All Vehicles With Takata Airbags
In Australia, voluntary recalls of vehicles with Takata airbags have already been announced by several car manufacturers such as Honda and Nissan. The Australian government, however, does not feel that all manufacturers have done a satisfactory job in addressing the very serious safety issue that the defective Takata airbags pose. On Wednesday, February 28, the government announced that recall of all vehicles affected by the defective airbags will be enacted and that all airbags need to be replaced by the end of 2020.
January 4, 2018 – Workers In Moses Lake Laid Off By Takata
The Takata Moses Lake facility in Washington state has reportedly laid off dozens of employees. The company told approximately 60 employees on Tuesday that they were immediately laid off. There are an estimated 350 people that work at the facility. The company has struggled in the past few years due to the 2013 airball recall affecting over 46 million vehicles. Many deaths and injuries resulted from the faulty inflators the company manufactures and several car makers are still attempting to locate and replace affected vehicles. Takata filed for bankruptcy in June 2017.
December 7, 2017 – Honda Announces Use Of Facebook In Takata Recall
On Monday, November 20, carmaker Honda announced that as part of their new initiative to locate vehicle owners affected by the Takata airbag recall the company will be using Facebook. There are millions of vehicles affected by the recall but even now, after several years after the recall has begun, millions of cars haven’t been repaired, leaving many in serious danger. Honda is one of the carmakers that was affected the most by the Takata recall and began recalling vehicles in 2013 globally.
November 15, 2017 – Toyota Faces Class Action Takata Airbag Lawsuit In Australia
The Takata airbag recall has affected over two million cars in Australia including vehicles from major car companies such as Mazda, Honda, Toyota, Audi, and more. Toyota has recently become the first car maker to have a class action lawsuit filed against them regarding how the company handled the recall. Lawsuits against other car makers are expected to be filed in the near future. The affected airbags were recalled in 2015, yet according to the lead plaintiff, Toyota did not disclose how many of its cars were affected by the recall in Australia.
October 2, 2017 – Due To Takata Airbags Honda Will Issue Mass Recall In China
Honda reached a $605 million settlement last month in a lawsuit over Takata defective airbags which were fitted for many of the cars the company manufactures. Similar lawsuits were settled with other car manufacturers, as well, in order to compensate car owners. Beginning on October 23, Honda will begin a recall in China of over 245,000 vehicles that were fitted with the potentially life-threatening defective airbags. The recall will include the Accord, Fit, City, Crosstour and Everus S1 models. The defective Takata airbags have been linked to 16 deaths and multiple injuries and in February the company pled guilty to fraud for hiding the defect.
September 8, 2017- Subaru Adds More Imprezas To Takata Recall
In Australia, the Takata airbag recall has involved over 33,500 Subaru vehicles. At the moment the recall has expanded to include an additional eight Subaru Impreza vehicles. The current recall list totals 33,556 of the MY2004-07 Subaru Imprezas. This particular Subaru Model is equipped with a Takata front passenger airbag SPI inflator with propellant wafers. This problem with the airbag could possibly increase the potential for moisture intrusion over time. The moisture intrusion has the potential to make the inflator assembly more susceptible to rupture when the airbag deploys.
August 17, 2017- Judge Allows A Temporary Halt Of Takata Lawsuits
A Delaware bankruptcy judge has allowed a temporary halt of the prosecution of lawsuits filed by Hawaii, New Mexico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands against Takata Corp. over its defective airbag inflators. The judge agreed to a 90-day stay after Takata requested that hundreds of airbag related lawsuits be put on hold as it works on a reorganization plan. The judge also agreed to temporarily halt individual lawsuits against automobile manufacturers who installed the faulty airbags for the same 90-day period. Although the judge agreed to give some relief to the corporation, he encouraged the company’s lawyers to be receptive to any individual plaintiff with extraordinary or unique hardships due to the 90-day stay, which is set to end on November 15, 2017.
July 17, 2017- Mazda South Africa Recalls 19,000 More Vehicles Due To Faulty Airbags
In Cape Town, South Africa, Mazda Motor Corp. is recalling 19,000 more cars because of airbag safety concerns. This recall comes as the Japanese car maker has extended a global recall that’s been prompted by investigations in Japan and North America for the three different types of Takata Corp. airbags manufactured by the company. According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, new testing prompted by Takata has declared 2.7 million airbag inflators defective in Ford Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co., and Mazda Motor Corp. automobiles.
June 20, 2017- Takata Corp. Seeking Bankruptcy Protection
Takata Corp. and its U.S. operations are seeking bankruptcy protection by the end of June. This bankruptcy deal would allow the corporation to sell its assets to competitor Key Safety Systems Inc. It is likely that the Japanese air bag maker’s bankruptcy filing will leave little money for many people who sued the corporation over deaths and injuries that were caused by the exploding air bag inflators. It is speculated that filing for bankruptcy is a move by Takata to use bankruptcy laws in order to escape responsibility for the injured and the families of the dead. Read more about how much victims will receive in lawsuits here, depending on how much Takata is bought for.
May 30, 2017- $553 Million Settled By Four Companies Over Takata Lawsuits
Four companies, Toyota, Subaru, Mazda, and BMW have settled a class-action lawsuit over defective Takata airbag inflators, for $553 million. This settlement does not cover claims of personal injury or property damage and the deal is in the hands of a federal court in Miami. The deal also covers nearly 16 million vehicles and will compensate people who own or lease vehicles that have been affected by the airbag recall. Read more about the settlement breakdown here.
April 24, 2017- Used Cars Being Installed With Recalled Airbags
A woman from Nevada suffered an airbag explosion in her car that resulted in her being punctured by sharp shrapnel from an inflator. Surgeons had to remove pieces that damaged her vocal cords and she is still under treatment for neck injuries. Upon closer inspection as to why this incident happened, AutoCheck revealed that the second-hand car was given a salvage title and was repaired and resold in Las Vegas last spring. Honda engineers inspected the car after the crash and found that the inflator blew apart. The engineers traced the inflator serial number to a 2001 Honda Accord, which had been covered by a recall but it never had the inflator replaced. Unfortunately, it is deemed legal under federal law for airbag assemblies or other parts that are subject to recall to be pulled out of wrecked cars and sold by junkyards to unsuspecting repair shops.
March 16, 2017- Family In Danger Of Takata Airbag Explosion While Waiting For A Replacement
A family in Tennessee is in danger of a potential airbag explosion while they await the replacement of their faulty Takata airbag. The family has stated that they have faced some serious delays from Scion Toyota after receiving a letter six months ago that their car had a potentially dangerous Takata airbag. The family has been calling the dealership once a month to try and get the part replaced, but they have been unsuccessful so far. The couple has resorted to asking for a rental car to use in the meantime and their Toyota Scion still sits in the dealership’s lot. It is currently unclear as to why this dealership is taking so long to provide airbag replacements for the faulty Takata airbags.
February 21, 2017- FTC Being Sued For Allowing The Sales Of Recalled Vehicles
Car dealers have been reportedly selling vehicles with unrepaired safety recall defects. The Federal Trade Commission reportedly allowed car dealers to advertise vehicles with open recalls as safe. In 2016 the FTC reached legal agreements with General Motors and two car dealers who had advertised their vehicle inspection methods but had failed to disclose that some of those certified or inspected vehicles were actually part of unrepaired safety recall models. Included in these vehicles were those with airbag recall notices. The FTC is meant to stop all forms of misleading advertising, however, in this case, it is encouraging it and this is especially unacceptable when there are millions of cars under Takata airbag recall notice.
January 20, 2017- Thirteen Automakers Recalling Vehicles For Dangerous Takata Airbags
More than 652,000 vehicles are being recalled by thirteen automakers for faulty Takata air bags. Automakers calling for recalls include Audi, Nissan, Jaguar-Land Rover, Subaru, Daimler Vans, Tesla, Mitsubishi, BMW, Ferrari, Mercedes, Mazda, McLaren, and Karma. The recalls for all these cars are to replace front passenger inflators. For more information about model recalls visit NHTSA here.
December 14, 2016- Defective Airbags Are Still Being Installed In New Cars
Despite the massive recall currently underway for faulty Takata airbags, it is still very possible that you can purchase a brand new car with a known defective airbag and not know it yourself as the customer. Car manufacturers like BMW have stated that some of their cars are currently being built with faulty airbags. However, the company does have a plan in place to recall and replace those airbags as soon as they have replacements on offer from their supply chain. Other manufacturers like Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Mitsubishi, Toyota, and Volkswagen have also issued statements that they are using faulty air bags for their new vehicles. They have received special allowance to do so by the NHTSA, although all vehicles with defective airbags must be fixed by the end of 2019.
November 25, 2016- GM Allowed To Delay Airbag Recall Until August 2017
General Motors has been allowed to delay a large recall of potentially defective air bags, by the U.S. auto safety regulators. The delay gives the company time to prove that the devices are safe and may possibly help GM avoid a big financial hit. The delay will allow GM to perform long-term tests of Takata air bag inflators in older trucks and SUVs including its top-selling vehicle, the Chevrolet Silverado pickup. The decision delays the recall until August 31, 2017. In the event that GM proves that the inflators are safe in that time period, the recall could be canceled.
October 27, 2016- 11th U.S. Death Confirmed In Connection With Faulty Takata Airbag Inflator
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has confirmed the death of a 50-year-old woman in Detroit, as the 11th U.S. victim of Takata Corp’s defective air bag inflators. The deceased woman was driving a 2001 Honda Civic. According to a police statement, a man making a left turn in a Chevrolet pickup truck was hit head-on by the Civic. She was rushed to a nearby hospital, where she ended up dying from her injuries. Takata airbags have been reported to inflate with too much force, which causes a metal canister to rupture and scatter shrapnel into the vehicle.