Takata Agrees To Billion Dollar Settlement, But Who Knew What?
Earlier this month Japanese automotive supplier Takata pled guilty and agreed to a $1 billion settlement for its part in the largest automotive recall in United States history. The company’s malfunctioning airbags injured over 100 people and killed 16 worldwide since this crisis began in April 2013. By pleading guilty, Takata admits to hiding evidence and falsifying reports in an attempt to cover up any airbag problems.
Takata is now faced with a $25 million criminal fine, and must provide $125 million for those injured and $850 million in restitution to the automakers who purchased their airbags. Takata might have faced a stricter punishment, but the company is now expected to go bankrupt, sell, or merge with another company.
The Takata airbag crisis that began almost four years ago stems from the use of a certain chemical that is responsible for inflating the airbag. The chemical compound known as ammonium nitrate is the main component and needs a drying agent known as desiccant, to deploy properly. If the inflator is exposed to moisture and doesn’t have desiccant, the airbag will rupture with a force that will send shrapnel flying into the driver and the passenger of the car. The airbag deploying is not entirely contingent on the vehicle being impacted – some may deploy without any warning at all. Climate was initially thought to be a factor, with reports stating that vehicles in warmer climates posed a higher risk, because of the humidity. However, those reports have since been retracted as a research panel funded by the auto industry found the same issues in cooler and drier climates.
With the settlement of Takata comes a new lawsuit, this time concerning automotive makers in the United States, particularly BMW, Nissan, Honda, Toyota and Ford. A civil case against Takata expands responsibility to the automakers themselves, claiming the automakers knew the airbags were defective and dangerous and still chose to use them in their vehicles. These companies could have known about the defective airbags during the vehicle testing stages.
Even though Takata has pled guilty and accepted the settlement, the Takata airbag crisis is far from over. With over 42 million vehicles in the United States alone affected by the recall, there is now a shortage of replacement parts. Those affected could expect to wait another two years before the airbags can be fixed. Older vehicles equipped with the Takata airbags will be given priority.
If you are unsure whether or not your vehicle is affected by the recall, you can find out at https://vinrcl.safercar.gov/vin/ and enter in your vehicle identification number. If you have suffered any type of injury, trust the attorneys at Goldberg, Persky & White and call our office at 1-800-471-3980 or via email and we will evaluate your case at no charge.