One of the biggest stories in recent news has involved Japanese auto parts maker Takata Corporation’s recall of some 23.4 million vehicles due to defective airbags that pose serious risks to vehicle occupants. The airbags were determined to deploy with such excessive force that they can project metal shrapnel, leading to devastating injuries and even some cases of death. In some cases, the airbags have failed to deploy entirely.
After the recall, Takata executed a consent order pursuant to a request from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about its duties during the recall initiative. As part of the consent order, Takata provided four information reports about the defects.
Florida residents have brought many lawsuits against Takata regarding its defective airbag products. During a hearing in one of these proceedings that took place in February 2016, the plaintiff contended that engineers employed by Takata had evidence showing that the airbag propellant was defective over 15 years ago. The propellant is made with the compound ammonium nitrate and was incorporated in Takata vehicles during 2000. During initial testing, the ammonium nitrate resulted in airbag failures. The plaintiff suffered severe injuries when the vehicle in which she was riding was struck, and the Takata airbag deployed defectively, leaving the plaintiff paralyzed.
The evidence offered at trial suggested that Takata had modified the data from the tests to hide the likelihood of failures resulting from the use of ammonium nitrate. A senior official with Takata even instructed employees to discard the evidence, alleged the plaintiff. As part of the plaintiff’s lawsuit, a former engineer for Takata was questioned, and this testimony was disclosed at the recent February 2016 hearing. According to him, he made attempts to investigate components of airbag products that did not pass performance tests in a report for Honda in 2002.
During this process, he discovered that the parts were discarded at the request of a vice president of engineering employed by Takata. The vice president was also tied to an airbag test that took place in 2004 that also involved an improper disposal of airbag test evidence. The documents further revealed that Takata failed to mention the airbag failures to Honda and instead modified the data so that the test results would appear positive.
So far, over 10 individuals have died as the result of a defective Takata airbag product, and over 100 people have suffered severe injuries, including paralysis. One of these fatalities occurred just last month. It is believed that Takata sold and distributed as many as 54 million airbag inflater products in the United States.
If you or someone you love has suffered injuries as the result of a dangerous or defective product, you may be entitled to compensation. At Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, our dedicated and experienced team of products liability lawyers has the experience and skill it takes to go up against big companies and manufacturers that do not always have your best interests in mind. We proudly serve clients throughout Southwest Florida, including in Naples, Cape Coral, and Fort Myers. Call us now at 1-800-283-7442 or contact us online to set up your free consultation.