Lawsuits filed from around the U.S. for damages stemming from purportedly defective air bags manufactured by Takata Corp. have been consolidated into a single multidistrict litigation (MDL) action that will be heard in Florida.
The airbags, which allegedly explode with excessive force, resulting in serious injury and, in some cases, death, are at the center of approximately 70 possible class action lawsuits.
Many of the lawsuits refer to a loss of economic damages as a result of loss of vehicle value. At this point, none of those pending in the MDL refer to personal injury, but the federal panel allowed those could be added at a later date. As of right now, there are nine personal injury/wrongful death claims pending against the manufacturer as a result of this same problem.
In MDL, lawsuits have all the pre-trial issues decided in one place, and then, if they make it to the trial phase, the cases will individually be re-routed back to the districts in which they were filed originally. The process is intended to ensure the cases move forward expeditiously, where it might otherwise drag on for years, with differing trial courts reaching vastly differing conclusions on important pre-trial matters.
An important legal question expected to be posed is whether the company was aware of the damage and withheld that information from regulators and the public. The firm insists it did not know this was an issue, and in fact is still trying to pinpoint the exact cause.
Our accident attorneys in Fort Myers know that while the alleged defect may not have caused any crashes, it reportedly had the potential to worsen the degree of injuries suffered by vehicle occupants.
As it now stands, some 12 million U.S. vehicles have been recalled, plus another 19 million are affected globally. It’s estimated Takata airbags are installed in some 30 million cars in the U.S. and more than 100 million worldwide. The firm controls about one-fifth of the word’s seat belt and airbag market.
U.S. regulators recently announced that because of the Japanese firm’s refusal to cooperate with the investigation into the defective airbags, the company is to be fined $14,000 daily. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asserts the company has refused to respond truthfully or fully regarding requests for information and documentation on the alleged defects. This is information the NHTSA says the company is legally required to provide, and the company’s actions is reportedly putting more people at risk.
For example, while the company did comply in turning over some 2.5 million records, the firm may no effort to help regulators decode the documents to understand their meaning.
The company has disputed the NHTSA’s assertions, countering that it was “surprised” by the agency’s characterization of its actions. The firm has dug in its heels last December when regulators pushed for an expanded recall that would include geographic regions beyond the Southeastern U.S. (Heat is reportedly believed to play a role in the degradation of the product.)
While these airbags have made international headlines recently, the reality is a range of defective auto parts are a major problem resulting in serious injuries and even fatalities. In fact, 2014 had more vehicle recalls and vehicle part recalls than any year in history.
Part of this is regulators and consumers are demanding stronger, faster action from manufacturers. But it also tells us there continue to be major issues with vehicle safety. Consumers have a right to expect the vehicles they drive are safe as purchased. When companies fail in this regard, it can be a form of negligence known as breach of implied warranty or breach of express warranty, depending on the type of defect.
Our experienced attorneys are here to help guide clients through the legal maze.
If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.
Exploding airbag lawsuits headed to federal court in Miami, Feb. 6, 2015, Associated Press
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Bush v. Elkins – Parental Liability for Minor Driver Negligence, Feb. 14, 2015, Fort Myers Car Accident Lawyer Blog