According to Bloomberg (11/20/14), an executive of Takata Corporation gave an apology at a US Senate Hearing and apologized for situations in which three deaths were linked to the company’s airbags. Two more deaths are currently being investigated and a third may also be linked to faulty airbags. Takata makes airbags for a variety of automobile manufacturers, including Honda Motor Co., who has faced lawsuits concerning its use of Takata airbags.
At issue with the airbags is an inflator compound - ammonium nitrate - that can break down and deploy with too much force when exposed to a high humidity or temperature changes, according to the New York Times (11/19/14). That force can result in metal components of the airbag breaking and being sent into the vehicle’s cabin, causing serious and sometimes fatal injuries to occupants.
So far, globally more than 14 million vehicles with Takata airbags have been recalled.
A lawsuit has been filed by the family of Hien Tran, who died after a September 29 crash in which debris from a vehicle’s airbag caused fatal injuries. According to Reuters (11/17/14), Tran’s injuries so closely resembled stab wounds that investigators initially considered her death a homicide. The lawsuit alleges Honda and Takata failed to warn vehicle owners about the potential risk of airbag failure, despite recalls and reports of incidents linked to the airbags.
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Meanwhile lawsuits seeking class-action status have reportedly been filed against Takata and Honda. In these cases, according to StarNews (11/19/14), the plaintiffs have not suffered injury but are suing for out-of-pocket expenses and damages linked to fixing their vehicles’ airbags. Lawsuits allege Takata and Honda officials knew or should have known about problems with the airbags and failed to take proper corrective action.