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ZF-TRW Holdings and Six Automakers Slammed with Defective Airbag Class Action Lawsuits

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ZF TRW Automotive Holdings and six major automakers slammed with Defective Airbags Class Action Lawsuits after the NHTSA expands its investigation.

Santa Clara, CAGerman airbag manufacturer ZF TRW Automotive Holdings Corp. and six major automakers have been slammed with class action defective airbag lawsuits alleging ZF TRW airbags are defective. The defective airbags have been linked to at least eight deaths and several serious injuries.

The class action lawsuits were filed on the heels of a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announcement in April of a more thorough federal investigation of the faulty ZF TRW airbags that now includes 12.3 million vehicles made by Fiat Chrysler, Honda, Mitsubishi, Toyota, Hyundai and Kia. The airbags are used in model-year vehicles ranging from 2010 to 2019, according to a government document. An initial investigation focused only on airbags in certain Hyundai and Kia vehicles.

NHTSA Investigation


The airbag failures may be caused by an electronic defect with the airbag control unit produced by TRW (ZF), which could fail during a crash event resulting in non-deployment of air bags and seat belt pre-tensioners, according to NHTSA documents. These control units may suffer electrical overstress due to harmful signals (electrical transients) produced by the crash event, causing the unit to stop working during the crash. The defect may also prevent seat belt pre-tensioners from operating properly.

ZF TRW Airbag Failure Similar to Takata Defective Airbags


The ZF TRW lawsuits are similar to those filed against Japanese airbag maker
Takata, whose defective airbags resulted in the largest U.S. safety recall ever --56 million airbag inflator units were recalled. Takata and Honda were accused in 2014 of a concealment campaign designed to cover-up evidence of airbag defects.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers claim that ZF TRW and the automakers:

• Knew of the airbag defect and the risk of serious injury and death;
• Knew of the defect and tried to conceal it from the public while they continued to promote their products as safe and reliable; and
• Demonstrated a blatant disregard for public welfare and safety.

“Like the Takata crisis, the current investigation focuses on safety issues with faulty airbags that still aren’t resolved after several years and problems that stretch across multiple car companies,” said William Wallace, a safety policy advocate for Consumer Reports. “Any company that delays a recall or fails to promptly report a safety issue should face substantial fines by the government.” Wallace contended that automakers don’t have to—nor should they-- wait until NHTSA concludes its investigations, considering that many lives could be at risk.

“ZF TRW expects to take the number two spot as one of the world’s largest supplier of airbag inflators,”Automotive News reported in 2016. The company secured a host of new contracts from Takata’s former customers, including Honda. At the time, Stefan Sommer, CEO of ZF Friedrichshafen AG, said the company was expanding its global capacity for two reasons: Global industry crash standards were becoming more stringent, requiring more automakers to fit airbags into vehicles. Secondly, Takata was struggling to replace millions of defective inflators.

To date ZF TRW hasn’t recalled the airbag units under investigation, but the “Office of Defects Investigation is expanding the investigation to include the equipment supplier and vehicle manufacturers using this unit," reported the NHTSA.

A motion has been filed before the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, requesting that all the cases be consolidated in federal court in the Southern District of Florida, where U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno presided over the Takata lawsuits.

READ ABOUT DEFECTIVE AIRBAG INJURY LAWSUITS

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