“All I remember is that I was being rushed to the hospital because my ear was falling off,” said the Miami resident in comments to CBS 4 Miami (02/05/15) days after the accident happened in February, 2015. Baker, who was photographed for the television interview with her head wrapped in gauze bandages, told reporters her left ear was hanging by a thread after shrapnel from her airbag slammed into her with extreme force.
“I’m hoping my hearing comes back,” she told the news crew from CBS 4. Even so, it could have been far worse, and Baker knows she is lucky to be alive. “I’m thankful it didn’t hit the nerve it could have hit, because if it did I would have been left with no motion on the left side of my face…”
Baker, who is a plaintiff in a Takata airbag injury lawsuit, could have suffered the same fate as Huma Hanif, who died a little more than a year ago on March 31, 2016 when her 2002 Honda Civic rear-ended another vehicle in Fort Bend County, Texas. According to media reports, the crash was not particularly violent and Hanif should have walked away from the collision. Instead, shrapnel from the containment canister when the airbag inflated sent razor-sharp shrapnel through the airbag, slicing into Hanif’s carotid artery in her neck.
Hanif was the 10th victim to die in the US from exploding Takata airbags. She was 17 years of age. There has since been another documented death, bringing the airbag death toll to at least 11 in the US.
The issue continues to be the use of ammonium nitrate in concert with canisters that do not succeed in preventing moisture, or condensation build up from high humidity and extreme temperature changes. The less-expensive ammonium nitrate is finicky and is reported to become less stable with age, or in areas where there is high humidity.
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Plaintiffs in airbag lawsuits assert that Takata knew about the potential liabilities and safety issues through the use of ammonium nitrate, but continued to market their products to the automotive industry as a cheap alternative to more expensive airbag solutions.
The airbag failure debacle has led to the largest automotive recall in US history, with damages into the billions of dollars. Last month Nissan Motor Co, Ltd. asked a Florida court to order Takata Corp. to reimburse Nissan for any costs stemming from Nissan’s position as a defendant in airbag injury multidistrict litigation.
The case is In re: Takata Airbag Products Liability Litigation, Case No. 1:15-md-02599 in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida.