Although designed to protect consumers from the effects of an automobile accident, it turns out that over 100 million Takata airbag canisters had the potential to cause further harm to drivers and passengers in a car when deployed. It is believed that Japan-based manufacturer Takata Corp. was aware of the potential dangers, yet tried to cover it up.
The issue has led to the largest automotive recall in the history of the United States, and has also led to additional suits filed last week against five automakers including BMW, Ford, Honda, Nissan and Toyota for allegedly knowing about the potential dangers but failing to properly address them in an effort to save money. The $1 billion suit will be split to $850 million in restitutions to automakers who used the product, $125 million dollars to product liability victims and their families, and $25 million in criminal fines.
It is believed that the faulty airbag devices have caused approximately 180 injuries and as many as 16 deaths, including 11 fatalities in the United States. Ammonium nitrate is inserted into each device to create a small explosion to inflate the airbag. But humidity and high temperatures can lead to the deterioration and the compound burning too quickly. The metal canister inflators may explode following a hard impact, sending shrapnel into its victims.
The U.S. government understands that risks associated with certain products can lead to injuries, illnesses and even fatalities. As such, courts take product liability claims seriously, and victims of a defective product may be entitled to compensation for their injuries or illness.
Source: ABC News, “Takata pleads guilty in air bag scandal, agrees to pay $1B,” By Tom Krisher and Ed White, Feb. 27, 2017