November 30, 2014, 08:00:00AM. By Heidi Turner
Washington, DC: An executive for the company that manufactures airbags involved in recent airbag recalls, airbag-related deaths and airbag failures has said there is no need for a nationwide recall, despite growing calls for such a recall to occur. Meanwhile, some news outlets are reporting that airbag lawsuits are being confidentially settled, making it difficult for plaintiffs in pending lawsuits to rely on previous cases for information.
Calls for Nationwide Airbag Recall Increase As Some Lawsuits Are SettledAccording 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.
Other lawsuits have been filed, but Bloomberg (11/17/14) notes that confidential settlements reached in some of those lawsuits prevented relevant information from being revealed, meaning clients in pending lawsuits do not obtain access to that information. According to Bloomberg, in at least five lawsuits, settlements were achieved before information came out in court.
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.