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14 Mar Billion Dollar Airbag Cover-Up

An airbag’s sole purpose is to keep car drivers and passengers safe. One manufacturer knowingly sent faulty ones to market and is now being blamed for eleven deaths and 189 injuries in the United States. The Japanese-based company Takata has just pleaded guilty to fraud charges and now has to pay a billion dollar penalty. It was America’s “largest and most complex safety recall” ever, and roughly 17,000,000 cars were recalled worldwide.

Bad Inflators to Blame

The main issue is that in order for the airbags to deploy during a crash, a tiny explosion has to happen. Its “inflator” is described as a metal cartridge “with propellant wafers” using ammonium nitrate. The inflator is set off in a crash and ruptures. The problem was that its chemicals are extremely sensitive to environmental factors and often deployed at random, sending out shards of metal that could hit drivers and passengers.

Major Auto Brands Involved

Four major automakers—Nissan, Toyota, Honda and Ford—are also being charged in a class-action lawsuit alleging that they had knowledge of the products’ problems and still used them in their vehicles. This is a twist, as some major carmakers were decrying the airbag company from the start of the scandal.

(If you’re worried about your car, the airbags were mostly installed from 2002–2014, and you can click here to check for your model.)

The lawsuits charge that Takata and the car companies knew of the airbags’ volatility but continued to use them. A quote in The New York Times said that in an exchange between Takata employees in the United States and Japan, one American engineer wrote, “Happy Manipulating!!!” when referencing results of airbag tests.

Another email talked of using colors and graphics “to divert attention” and “to try to dress it up,” meaning the findings. He also mentions that data manipulation is the way the Japanese companies report results to clients, and that he had done it in such a way in order to avoid fraud. There is another mention of reporting to Honda that a malfunction was actually the correct operating process. This is pretty condemning stuff and became fodder for lawsuits.

Bad Products Ruin Lives

Takata now has a billion dollar bill to pay, and the even sadder thing about the deaths is that while the airbag maker has lost money the last two years, they expect to make a profit next year. So in a way, it’s business as usual for them, even while life will never be the same for the victims’ families.

Manufacturers cannot cut corners and put the public at risk. If they do, they’ll be held responsible for the consequences. In the Takata case, it seems apparent that they knew the defect and covered it up. However, to have a product liability case, you don’t need to prove that the manufacturer knew of the defect, just that there was a defect. They can still be held responsible for harming others. It is their responsibility to ensure that their products are safe.

Sacramento Product Liability Lawyers

Building product liability cases can be very involved, as it’s not always obvious at which point in manufacturing, distribution, and sales that things went wrong. Sometimes even the integrity of the product materials was compromised.

If you think a product has harmed you or someone you know, you need to find a lawyer with experience digging up evidence for these tricky cases. Crowell Law Offices spares no effort in finding who is responsible for our clients’ injuries, whether it is a product liability or personal injury case. We’d be happy to give you our take on your case for free. Contact us today by calling 916-303-2800 or completing the contact form below.