The United States Office of the Attorney General in Detroit announced a deal with the Takata Corporation wherein Takata Corp. agreed to plead guilty to a single criminal charge and pay $1 billion in fines and restitution for concealing a deadly defect in their airbag inflators. Following a federal grand jury unsealing an indictment for three former high-ranking Takata executives, Shinichi Tanaka, Hideo Nakajima and Tsuneo Chikaraishi, Takata Corp. and the United States Attorney Generals Office reached a deal. Under this deal, Takata Corp. will pay $25 million dollars in a criminal penalty, $125 million to those individuals who have been injured by the airbags, and an additional $850 million to automakers that purchased the Takata Corp. airbag inflators. Our Philadelphia car accident lawyers explain the deal in more detail below.
What is the Problem With the Takata Airbag Inflators?
It seems that Takata airbag recalls have made their way into the news, however, not for their ability to save lives, but rather for their record of malfunctioning and injuring drivers and passengers. The reported problem with the Takata inflators is that they can deploy with too much force leading to ruptures in the airbag inflator. When too much force is applied to these airbags, they can launch metal shrapnel into drivers and passengers.
Numerous car companies have installed these airbags into multiple models of their vehicles. Barbara McQuade, the U.S. Attorney in Detroit stated that “Automotive suppliers who sell products that are supposed to protect consumers from injury or death must put safety ahead of profits,” McQuade said. “If they choose instead to engage in fraud, we will hold accountable the individuals and business entities.”
However, while creating a defective product may be troublesome, the real problem with the Takata airbag “scandal” is that according to the federal indictment, it appears that some members of the company were aware that their products posed a danger to consumers. Further according to the indictment, the three high-level executives falsified and altered reports to hide tests from automakers indicating that there was a potential problem with the inflators.
The History of Takata Recalls
Since 2014, when the New York Times first published a report claiming that Takata Airbags were defective and dangerous, there have been numerous reports of injuries and recalls for Takata airbags. This history details in reverse chronological order some of the developments in this ongoing scandal.
- January 19, 2017: Over 625,000 vehicles produced by companies including Audi, Nissan, Jaguar-Land Rover, Subaru, Daimler Vans, Tesla, Mitsubishi, BMW, Ferrari, Mercedes, Mazda, McLaren, and Karma are added to the Takata airbag recall.
- January 8, 2017: Fiat Chrysler recalls an addition 100,000 affected vehicles.
- December 9, 2016: A more aggressive recall schedule was announced by the Department of Transportation. Priority for replacements was given to the riskiest models such as older vehicles driven in high humidity climates.
- October 20, 2016: NHTSA confirms the 11th fatality. It occurred in a 2001 Honda Civic, a vehicle that was recalled in 2008. The recall had not been performed on this specific car. Nine of the 11 Takata-related deaths in the U.S. have occurred in Acura and Honda models. Honda reports that there are just under 300,000 affected vehicles that have not been repaired or accounted for. Key lesson: Take recall notices seriously.
- July 22, 2016: Mazda announced that it is recalling additional B-Series pickup trucks from the 2007 to 2009 model years. The recall covers passenger airbags.
- June 30, 2016: NHTSA announces that certain 2001-2003 Honda and Acura models have a much higher risk of ruptures during airbag deployments. U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement, “Folks should not drive these vehicles unless they are going straight to a dealer to have them repaired immediately, free of charge.” The affected models are listed below.
- June 21, 2016: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announces it will end NAFTA-market production of vehicles with non-desiccated ammonium-nitrate Takata airbag inflators by the end of June, with global production to end by mid-September. The 2016 Jeep Wrangler uses this type of inflator in the passenger-side airbag. Customers will be advised of vehicles that are so-equipped and will be advised that the vehicles will be recalled in the future.
- June 14, 2016: Mitsubishi, Toyota, and Volkswagen have all confirmed the new vehicles they are selling that contain Takata’s ammonium nitrate-based propellant in driver and/or passenger frontal airbag inflators without a chemical drying agent, also known as a desiccant. These vehicles are listed below. Fiat Chrysler has yet to announce which vehicle they are selling with this type of airbag. While none of the models are part of the current recall, they all will have to be recalled by 2018. According to NHTSA, as of May 20, 2016, a total of 8,432,805 airbags have been replaced.
- June 2, 2016: Audi, BMW, General Motors, Jaguar/Land Rover, and Mercedes-Benz have added nearly 2.5 million more U.S. vehicles to the list of cars with defective Takata airbags.
- June 1, 2016: Fiat Chrysler, Mitsubishi, Toyota, and Volkswagen confirm in a report from Florida Senator Bill Nelson (PDF) that they are selling some new vehicles with airbags that contain Takata’s ammonium nitrate-based propellant in driver and passenger frontal airbag inflators without a chemical drying agent, also known as a desiccant. These vehicles will have to be recalled by 2018.
- May 4, 2016: The massive Takata airbag recall is more than doubling in size, with NHTSA announcing that it is expanding the recall to include 35-40 million airbag inflators to be replaced through 2019. This tally is in addition to the 28.8 million airbags already recalled. Thus far, NHTSA shows that 8,168,860 airbags have been replaced.
- April 13, 2016: Regulators state that there are 85 million potentially defective, unrecalled Takata airbag inflators that will need to be recalled—unless Takata can prove they are safe. So far, the recall has included 28.8 million airbags in the U.S.
- April 7, 2016: A 17-year-old girl from Texas named as the 10th U.S. victim. She was driving a 2002 Honda Civic. Her death is attributed to shrapnel from the exploding airbag striking her neck. NHTSA shows that 7,522,533 airbags have been repaired.
- February 12, 2016: NHTSA expands its list of impacted models. Thus far, 7,122,510 airbags have been repaired.
- December 23, 2015: NHTSA announces another U.S. fatality due to the questionable Takata airbag inflator, underscoring the need for the consumer to have their cars repaired as soon as possible. Further, there have been changes to the official list of affected vehicles, which are reflected in this omnibus story.
- November 3, 2015: NHTSA imposes a record civil penalty of up to $200 million against Takata. (Of that, $70 million is a cash penalty, with an additional $130 million charge if Takata fails to meet its commitments.) Plus, the government agency requires Takata to phase out the manufacture and sale of inflators that use the risky propellant and recall all Takata ammonium nitrate inflators currently on the road—unless the company can prove they are safe or can show it has determined why its inflators are prone to rupture.
- October 9, 2015: Honda releases an update on the Takata airbag recall, stating its progress in reaching out to consumers and its recall repair completion rate.
- June 19, 2015: NHTSA and Honda confirm that an 8th fatality was attributable to a Takata airbag ruptured, which took place in Los Angeles in September of 2014. The car was identified as a rented 2001 Honda Civic. Honda said the car had been under recall since 2009 but that various owners, including the small rental company in Los Angeles, had failed to have the repairs made.
- June 17, 2015: NHTSA VIN look-up tool is updated to include all affected models. Often, there can be a slight delay between announcements and when data is available.
- June 16, 2015: Toyota expands years for recall on previously announced models, adding 1,365,000 additional vehicles.
- June 15, 2015: Honda expands national recall on Honda Accord.
- June 15, 2015: NHTSA and Honda confirm that Takata airbag ruptured was implicated in a seventh death. The driver of a 2005 Honda Civic was fatally injured following a crash on April 5, in Louisiana.
- June 4, 2015: Reuters reports that at least 400,000 replaced airbag inflators will need to be recalled and replaced again.
- May 29, 2015: Chrysler, Mitsubishi, Subaru, and General Motors added the vehicle identification numbers (VIN) of the impacted vehicles to their recall websites.
- May 28, 2015: NHTSA and vehicle manufacturers revealed the additional models included in previous recall announcements.
- May 19, 2015: DOT released a statement saying that Takata acknowledges airbag inflators it produced for certain vehicles were faulty. It expanded certain regional recalls to national ones and included inflators fitted in certain Daimler Trucks in the recalled vehicles. In all, the recall was expanded to a staggering 33.8 million vehicles. That number includes the roughly 17 million vehicles previously recalled by affected automakers.
- February 20, 2015: NHTSA fined Takata $14,000 per day for not cooperating fully with the agency’s investigation into the airbag problems.
- January 18, 2015: The driver of a 2002 Honda Accord became the fifth person in the United States thought to have been killed by an exploding airbag inflator.
- December 18, 2014: Ford issued a statement adding an additional 447,310 vehicles to the recall.
- December 9, 2014: Honda issued a statement saying it will comply with NHTSA and expand its recall to a national level. This brings the number of affected Honda/Acura vehicles to 5.4 million.
- November 18, 2014: NHTSA called for the recalls to be expanded to a national level.
- November 7, 2014: New York Times published a report claiming Takata was aware of dangerous defects with its airbags years before the company filed paperwork with federal regulators.
Takata Airbag Injuries
According to reports, at least 11 people have been killed in the United States as a result of a malfunctioning airbag inflator, and sixteen people 16 worldwide have been killed because of the alleged defects. Furthermore, there have been more than 180 people injured because of these airbags. Injuries from Takata airbags can include:
- Cuts/lacerations/abrasions to the face, neck, throat, torso, and arms
- Broken or fractured facial bones
- Broken teeth
- Loss of eyesight
- Vocal cord damage/loss of speech
- Complications from blood loss
- Permanent disfigurement
The problem with the inflators has to do with a metal cartridge that is loaded with propeller wafers. These wafers have from time to time exploded with a considerable amount of force. The fragments or shrapnel from these metallic devices has resulted in severe injuries.
Seeking a Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyer for Your Serious Injuries?
If you have been injured in an accident because of a Takata airbag defect, you may be entitled to compensation. The first step in making a claim for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and other damages is seeing a lawyer who can assess whether you should file a personal injury lawsuit. The Philadelphia Takata exploding airbag accident injury lawyers at The Reiff Law Firm have over 90 collective years of experience and know how to investigate claims to the fullest.
Along with our extensive legal background, we strive to help our clients recover physically, emotionally, and financially in any way that we can and fight so that they can begin the healing process. If you or someone you love has been injured because of a faulty product, design flaw, or malfunction, call our law offices at (215) 246-9000, and speak to a lawyer for free today.