On January 4, 2018, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Brendan Shannon in Wilmington, DE, gave auto supplier Takata’s creditors the green light to vote on the bankrupt company’s Chapter 11 plan. Takata filed for bankruptcy in June 2017 during a massive recall of its defective airbags. The company manufactures and sells motor vehicle seat belts, airbags, steering wheels, interior trims, and child restraint systems.
Numerous airbags have been found to explode and spew metal shards. The American Association for Justice includes Takata’s cover-up of 70 million potentially lethal airbags in their list of Worst Corporate Conduct of 2017 (December 13, 2017). The AAJ describes a 10-year cover-up with at least 19 dead and at least 220 people in the U.S. injured, as well as the company giving out replacement air bags that may be deadly.
Takata and its biggest customer, Honda, are charged with being aware of the problem back in 2004 but keeping it from the public until 2008. At that time, the recall covered 4,000 cars. In December 2017, 380,000 Ford and Mazda vehicles were recalled making it the largest automotive recall in U.S. history. The Japanese auto parts maker sold airbags to BMW, Fiat Chrysler, Daimler, Ford, GM, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota.
The new data on defective airbag inflators manufactured by Takata shows a far higher risk of ruptures than for Takata airbags recalled earlier. Takata originally stated that chemical propellants were mishandled during assembly and as late as July 2017, the company blamed it on humid weather. However, on November 17, 2017, a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recall announcement states:
The Takata airbag recalls are the largest and most complex vehicle recalls in U.S. history…. Approximately 34 million vehicles are currently under recall for approximately 46 million defective Takata air bags that can explode when the airbag deploys, causing serious injury or even death. Additional airbags are scheduled to be recalled by December 2019, bringing the total number of affected airbags to around 65-70 million. Takata supplied these defective airbags to many vehicle manufacturers for years, creating one of the largest and most complex recalls in U.S. history. NHTSA and vehicle manufacturers urge the public to get their vehicles fixed as soon as possible; the recall repair is FREE.
In litigation against automotive manufacturers, the knowledge and experience which automotive engineering expert witnesses possess are critical. Faulty design or manufacturing issues such as those found in Takata airbags lead to safety problems in vehicle operations which in this case had fatal results. Automotive engineering experts are trained to consult on federal regulations, industry standards, codes and compliance. These experts present evidence to the court which may very well be a determining factor in the outcome of your case.