Takata Airbag Litigation Commences

takata-logo smallThree class action lawsuits filed against Takata Corporation, one of the largest global manufacturers of automobile components, have commenced this month in Florida, California, and Georgia. Other companies implicated in the lawsuits include Honda, Bayerische Motoren Werke A.G. (BMW), Ford, Toyota, and Nissan — all of which are vehicle manufacturers who used Takata air bag components in their vehicles. The defendants have been accused of not acting quickly enough to solve the deadly airbag defect. Malfunctioning Takata airbags recently incited a flurry of recalls, involving around 7.8 million vehicles across 10 automakers.

The bulk of the airbag-related recalls occurred between 2013 and 2014, with the rate of recalls expanding dramatically after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced its intention of investigating the issue in June 2014. According to Takata, the propellant wafer used to accelerate and inflate the airbag can become unstable in moist, humid environments. In the event of an accident, this means that there is a heightened risk of an explosion within the airbag module, possibly resulting in the launching of metal shrapnel at the vehicle’s occupants.

Takata later also admitted that their products may have been improperly manufactured; not only did they fail to adequately shield the propellant wafer from external elements, but many of their airbags were packed with an inadequate amount of propellant. These quality-control oversights led to significant financial losses for the company, especially due to the growing legal obligations that Takata is facing.

The first of three class action lawsuits filed in Florida on October 27, and cites Takata, BMW, Ford, Honda, and Toyota. This tort represents consumers in Puerto Rico and six states. The second lawsuit, filed in California — where Honda’s U.S. headquarters is located —, names Takata, BMW, Honda, Nissan, and Toyota. The plaintiffs are focusing primarily on the airbag manufacturer, Takata, since there is no evidence that any of the automakers ordered component specifications that could have put consumers at risk. Honda, however, seems to be the exception, because the car maker may have been aware of the problem many years prior to the most recent series of recalls.

A third lawsuit, filed by Pope McGlamry in the Northern District of Georgia, is on behalf of Plaintiff Richard D. Arnold, Jr. and other similarly situated victims, who were injured as a result of faulty Takata airbags. The suit cites Takata, for negligence in the manufacturing of the product, and Honda, for failing to adequately report the airbag defects to the NHTSA. Takata has also been faulted for improperly dealing with the problem when it became clear that their airbags were malfunctioning. Specifically, in 2009 the company denied that non-Honda vehicles carried the same inflators; since then, at least nine other manufacturers have recalled vehicles for the same complication.

The first known accident involving malfunctioning Takata airbags dates back to the early 2000s, when an airbag inflator exploded in a car crash involving a 2002 Honda Accord. In 2007, there were three airbag incidents, after which Honda settled with the victims. Honda also settled with a Civic driver whose carotid artery was opened by a piece of airbag shrapnel in 2008. In 2009, a mother was fatally injured after her Accord’s airbag exploded and pierced her neck. Although the auto company did issue a limited recall of just over 4000 cars that same year, later expanding the recall eight times, it failed to notify the NHTSA about the link between the injuries and the airbag technology.

Takata, which plaintiffs believe was aware of the airbag defect since 2001, and Honda have been charged with negligence. Consumers are afraid that if these companies are not held accountable for their inaction, the cost of their failures will be externalized to the consumer. According to one of the attorneys involved in the class action lawsuits, Roland Tellis, “If Takata and vehicle manufacturers aren’t able to timely address this problem, consumers will have to do it themselves, park their vehicles, rent cars and pay for it themselves.”

How the Pope McGlamry Legal Team Can Help You

Were you or a loved one injured by a defective vehicle airbag? Malfunctioning car components can result in serious personal injury or death, and auto makers should be held accountable if they fail to meet the established standards of consumer safety. If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a malfunctioning airbag, the Pope McGlamry legal team can help you fight for the compensation you deserve. Contact our Georgia offices to schedule your complimentary case review today: 877.285.7656.

R. Timothy Morrison

Tim Morrison graduated from the University of Alabama in Birmingham with a B.S. in 1972 and a J.D. from the University of Alabama in 1976. He was a member of the University of Alabama Law Review from 1975-1976. Following his graduation from the University of Alabama, Morrison clerked for Justice Janie L. Shores, Alabama Supreme […] Full Bio