According to a startling New York Times profile, the airbags manufactured by Japanese company Takata have now been linked to 10 deaths and more than 100 injuries, yet remain in millions of vehicles nationwide. The first publicized injury linked to the defective airbags occurred in 2004, when the airbag of a Honda Accord exploded and released metal fragments, striking the driver. Since that incident – and others – a recall involving fourteen automakers was initiated. Despite this recall, tens of millions continue to unknowingly operate vehicles that pose a potentially fatal danger.
Regulators believe the defect stems from the airbag’s metal “inflaters” containing ammonium nitrate, an explosive compound. Approximately 28 million inflaters in 24 million vehicles have been recalled. Of those 28 million recalled inflaters, only about 30 percent have been repaired. The rest of the inflaters – about 26 million – have not yet been recalled.
Tragically, there will be no immediate solution to this problem. While the NHTSA has prohibited Takata from using ammonium nitrate for new orders, it has also given the Japanese supplier until the end of 2018 to demonstrate that the ammonium nitrate inflaters are safe in the existing airbags. One safety consultant remarked that it may take another death or injury in order for the federal government to mandate an additional recall.
The recent New York Times profile asserts that engineers for Takata engaged in deception to manipulate test data. Currently, Takata is embroiled in a criminal investigation related to its response to its defective products. It’s an unfortunate reality that large corporations do not always prioritize consumer safety. But it is simply unacceptable that after being confronted with substantiated allegations of dangerous defects, businesses engage in deception to actively conceal the danger from consumers.
Corporations concerned solely with its bottom line certainly won’t self-impose strict safety precautions, and unfortunately government agencies are not always successful either. This is why one of the most effective means of regulating unreasonably dangerous products is through civil claims brought by the victims of negligence. If you have been injured by the negligence of another or due to an unsafe product, do not hesitate to contact one of the experienced attorneys at Swartz & Lynch LLP.