Approximately 23 million Takata airbag inflators have been recalled in the US due to the potential for them to explode, sending metal debris flying. A young man has recently become the eighth person in the US, and ninth worldwide, to die from an explosive rupture when he was involved in a crash near Pittsburgh earlier this month. In addition to fatalities, the faulty inflators have also resulted in numerous injuries. These injuries and deaths typically involve low-speed crashes that would have likely been survivable. Contact a Boston Injury Lawyer Today.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the number of recalled vehicles with Takata airbags is increasing. Although it was already the largest and most complicated recall in the NHTSA’s history, new findings may result in hundreds of thousands of additional recalls.
Unsealed Documents Reveal Cover-Up
The potential for Takata inflators to explode was first brought to the manufacturer’s attention five years ago. Following the most recent death, previously sealed documents were opened as part of a new lawsuit against Takata. Within these documents were meeting minutes taken at Honda’s American headquarters, in 2009. The man who oversaw Honda’s manufacturing operations at that time, Hidenobu Iwata, was noted as questioning Shigehisa Takada, the president of Takata, on the severity and extent of the explosive defect. Mr. Iwata was quoted as saying, “I am constantly worrying how far it spreads out. I want you to study the reason quickly.” Also included in the minutes was further questioning by an engineer identified as Otaka. “Why does the propellant deteriorate with age? Why does it explode? I want to know the truth.”
Prompting the 2009 meeting was the death of 18-year-old Ashley Parham. The Oklahoma resident bled to death when her airbag ruptured in a crash, propelling a piece of metal debris into an artery in her neck. Following Parham’s death, approximately 4,000 vehicles were recalled. After the meeting between Honda and Takata, Honda recalled an additional 440,000 vehicles. However, both companies maintained that the defect was due to an isolated manufacturing problem. Takata declined to comment on the recently unsealed documents.
Recall Involves Hondas, Mazdas, and Subarus
The expanded recall will involve several hundred thousand Hondas, Mazdas, and Subarus. During the recall, the airbag inflators, which contain a propellant called ammonium nitrate, will be replaced. The safety of that propellant, generally reserved for large-scale uses such as mining, has been questioned by explosives experts. Unless it can be proven that ammonium nitrate is safe, all airbag inflators with the compound will be recalled. Currently, that number is in the tens of millions. Takata has received a $70 million fine from the NHTSA for failure to properly disclose the defect. However, that fine may rise by more than $100 million if it is determined that Takata did not adhere to the consent order terms.
Altman & Altman, LLP – Serving Boston and the Surrounding Areas
As of December 4, only 27% of vehicles involved in the recall had been repaired. If you have been injured or sustained property damage due to a faulty vehicle part, you should consult with a personal injury attorney to determine your rights and options. It is evident that Takata knew about the potential for serious injury and death, but failed to disclose this to consumers. The company’s negligence may have resulted in several deaths and many more injuries. Takata, and any other negligent manufacturer, should be held accountable for its actions. The personal injury team at Altman & Altman LLP has over 50 years of experience protecting the rights of accident and injury victims. Contact us today for a free consultation about your case.