Already the target of multiple lawsuits, including one recently filed in Georgia by Pope McGlamry, Takata Corporation may now be facing a Federal investigation. Three U.S. Senators have called for a criminal investigation of the company after reviewing evidence that the airbag manufacturer had conducted secret tests on their defective airbags four years prior to the first recall of vehicles using them. Takata has been accused of misinforming officials by lying on reports, deleting relevant test data, and throwing away airbags used during the tests. Prone to explode in humid environments, Takata airbags have killed at least two people and have resulted in over 30 injuries. The company is being sued for negligence during the production and distribution of their airbag components.
According to two former employees, Takata conducted secret tests on 50 airbags retrieved from scrapyards, after an Alabama driver suffered injuries from an exploding airbag in 2004. These product trials were held after normal work hours, during weekends and on holidays. The employees, one of whom was a senior member, reported that two of the airbags had cracked, which can lead to a rupture. Although the company’s engineers found the evidence severe enough to begin exploring potential solutions to the malfunction, Takata instead ordered employees to delete testing data and to dispose of the tested airbag inflators. Furthermore, they failed to warn federal regulators of these 2004 analyses; according to government data, the first tests on file took place in November 2008.
Although they have assured regulators that quality control issues were settled in the early 2000s, recent evidence points in the opposite direction. Internal Takata documents, videos, photos, emails, and regulatory filings reveal a number of quality problems associated with the production and distribution of airbag units, including:
- In April 2009, Takata repaired a flaw in a machine in a Monclova, Mexico factory that made the propellant inside the airbag more volatile.
- Closed-circuit television footage shows employees and forklifts dropping entire stacks of airbag units. Dropped units were not always adequately inspected before distribution.
- Workers expressed concern over the distribution of units that were wet or damaged because of transportation accidents.
“The Justice Department needs to get involved here and begin a criminal investigation,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, in response to a New York Times article reporting Takata’s employees’ disclosure of the secret testing. Blumenthal has also expressed interest in organizing a Senate hearing for early 2015 on the Takata airbag problem. Senator Claire McCaskill, who heads the product safety subcommittee, has expressed similar plans for holding Takata accountable for mishandling defective airbag issues.
Regulators have also placed their crosshairs on Honda. Safety regulators are investigating whether the Japanese automaker failed to report deaths and injuries caused from ruptured defective airbags. Although Honda issued a recall in 2008, it failed to inform officials about an airbag explosion in 2004 and investigators suggest that there were similar cases in 2007. Under the 2000 TREAD Act, car companies are required to file early warning reports for any episode involving an injury or a death linked to a vehicle component defect. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Honda’s failure to report these issues extends beyond Takata airbags. If the allegations are true, Honda may have put the lives of their customers at risk.
Pope McGlamry: Leading the Fight Against Takata
Takata is facing a number of lawsuits for their defective airbags and Honda has been implicated in these as well. A lawsuit filed in the Northern District of Georgia by Pope McGlamry cites both companies for negligence during the manufacturing process and in handling early reports concerning defective Takata airbag modules.
If you or a loved one has suffered injuries as a result of an exploding airbag, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact Pope McGlamry to schedule your complimentary case review, so that our specialized team of attorneys can help you achieve the justice you deserve: 977.285.7656.