In the summer of 2009, Honda quietly asked Takata to change its defective airbags to new “fail-safe” models after four injuries and one fatality were linked to the airbag’s exploding inflators.
According to U.S. law, Honda was required to inform the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about safety concerns surrounding the rupturing airbags, yet it failed to do so. Instead, Honda chose to keep its redesign request a secret.
Evidence of the requested design change surfaced in several Takata memos and documents, revealing both companies had knowledge of the dangerous exploding airbag inflators as early as 2009. Extensive recalls for the faulty inflators did not occur until 2014.
Because Honda and Takata were not forthcoming with this information, both companies could be subjected to more scrutiny in the 100-plus pending lawsuits against them. These lawsuits allege defective Takata airbags were the cause of numerous deaths and serious injuries.
In an attempt to minimize the importance of the design change request, Takata and Honda tried to avert liability for redesigning the airbag inflators. Honda asserts it did not inform regulators about the redesign because it was not requested due to the airbags being faulty. It was requested because the inflators represented a manufacturing error, according to Honda, and therefore the auto maker was not lawfully required to report it to the NHTSA. All instances where a product is deemed faulty or defective must promptly be reported to NHTSA regulators.
While Takata admitted to testing newly designed airbags for a customer, it did not answer specific questions about Honda’s reason for the “fail-safe” model request. Instead, the company discussed the installation of vents on newer airbags that redirect inflator explosions away from a driver’s torso and neck.
Takata Airbags Recalls And Lawsuits
To date, 90 injuries and eight U.S. deaths have been linked to defective Takata airbags. The company has been the center of debate ever since the massive recall of millions of vehicles was first announced in 2014. The defective airbags can force pieces of metal into the air when inflators explode, which can cause serious injury or death to vehicle occupants.
Because Honda was Takata’s biggest customer, 8.5 million Honda vehicles have been recalled thus far, with more recalls possible in the future. Lawsuits pertaining to the defective airbags have been consolidated and target Takata, Honda and other automakers collectively. The lawsuits, which will be presented in a Miami courtroom, seek compensation from the at-fault companies regarding injuries, deaths and loss of vehicle value. The trials are set to begin in early 2017.
Being injured or losing a loved one due to a defective product is a devastating experience. A skilled Cincinnati personal injury lawyer at O’Connor, Acciani and Levy is available to help all victims file a lawsuit and receive the justice and compensation they deserve. For a free consultation, contact us today.