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Takata Airbag Recall Part III

For the past year, Takata Corp. has been under investigation by the NHTSA for its defective airbags. Two previous blogs discussed the fact that Takata had notice of the defect in the airbags as far back as 2004 but failed to notify car manufacturers. Takata also refused to request an issuance of a recall. The result: at least 6 deaths and 100 injuries linked to the airbags, which inflate too violently and send metal shards and shrapnel into the driver or passenger sitting in the seat opposite the deployed airbag. The defect is linked to the propellant used by Takata, which degrades over time and causes the violent explosion of the airbags.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced on May 19, 2015, that Takata has admitted that the airbags are defective (it previously blamed humid weather or other factors for the degradation of the propellant), and that the current recall has been extended to a nationwide recall encompassing 34 million vehicles and 11 car manufacturers. Foxx emphasized that the Takata recall is now the most complex consumer safety recall in U.S. history, and could take years to complete. It will be implemented by automakers sending vehicle owners notices regarding the defective airbag. However, due to the massive number of vehicles involved, it will take several weeks for manufacturers to identify all the vehicles having the dangerous airbags. In the meantime, various websites have been set up for car owners to check to determine if their vehicle contains one of the defective airbags. Dealers will replace the airbags for free.

THE CONSENT ORDER

Transportation Secretary Foxx also announced that a Consent Order had been issued to Takata which required the corporation to: (1) cooperate with all future regulatory actions and proceedings that are part of the NHTSA's ongoing investigation and oversight of the Takata airbag inflators and future remedial actions; (2) respond to all information requests in complete and timely fashion; and (3) provide the NHTSA with all test results and data related to the inflators.

The Consent Order does not release Takata from civil penalties, but the NHTSA will not seek the civil penalties demanded previously beyond those that may be applicable prior to the Consent Order. In addition, Takata's cooperation going forward will be taken into account in seeking any penalties.

TAKATA'S LEGAL LIABILITY

Takata's admission that its airbags are defective will make it easier for victims injured by those airbags to recover damages. Because there is evidence that Takata knew of the defect and failed to act, causes of action based on negligent or reckless conduct on the part of Takata may be possible. If it is discovered that Takata deliberately concealed information and/or research about the dangerous propellant (as alleged in a New York Times investigation; see Blog Part II), actions based on fraud could be brought against the corporation, with punitive damages being possible. Finally, damages for wrongful death and injuries could be recovered under a product liability cause of action such as design defect.

CONTACT YOUR ATTORNEY

If you have been injured or suffered any harm due to Takata's defective airbags, contact Dave Thomas at The Thomas Law Firm.

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