Lawsuits Commence Against Takata, Auto Makers Over Air Bags

By | October 28, 2014

Takata Corp. and carmakers that install the company’s air bags were sued by U.S. drivers over claims they were duped into buying unsafe vehicles following the recall of almost 8 million cars from 10 automakers.

Buyers or leasers of Honda Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp., and other affected brands filed federal complaints yesterday in at least two U.S. states seeking to represent a nationwide class of consumers. They allege they were harmed by buying vehicles that, because of potentially dangerous air bags, weren’t as safe as they were made to believe.

Air bags made by Takata have been linked to at least four deaths and more than 30 injuries in the U.S. after the safety devices deployed with too much force, spraying metal shrapnel at occupants. Honda alone has recalled 6 million vehicles globally since 2008 because of the Takata air-bag flaw.

“Takata and the vehicle manufacturer defendants knew or should have known that the Takata air bags installed in millions of vehicles were defective,” according to a copy of one complaint filed in the Southern District of Florida and provided by plaintiffs’ lawyers. “Both Takata and the vehicle manufacturer defendants, who concealed their knowledge of the nature and extent of the defects from the public, have shown a blatant disregard for public welfare and safety.”

The filing wasn’t available directly from the court.

Takata is reviewing details of the complaint, Tokyo-based spokesman Hideyuki Matsumoto said, declining further comment.

Shares of Takata rose 2.4 percent to 1,526 yen at the close of Tokyo trading, while the benchmark Topix index declined 0.2 percent.

“We have not received the complaint so far and would like to refrain from making any comments,” said Akemi Ando, a spokeswoman at Honda. Toyota said it received an e-mail seeking comment would respond as soon as possible.

Negligence Suit

Last week, Florida resident Claribel del Carmen Nunez sued Takata and a U.S. unit of Honda, claiming she was injured after a defective air bag in her car exploded, according to her complaint filed in federal court in Florida. Both Takata and Honda were negligent in failing to test the air bag, Nunez alleged in her lawsuit.

As of last week, about 7.8 million people in the U.S. were being notified about the defect, with General Motors Co. joining Toyota in warning people not to sit in front passenger seats until repairs can be made. The recalls affect at least 10 carmakers in the U.S.

In a separate lawsuit filed in the Central District of California, another five buyers or leasers of BMW, Honda and Toyota cars claimed their vehicles were “unsafe” because of the faulty Takata air bags. Takata and the carmakers “did not fully investigate or disclose the seriousness of the issue and in fact downplayed the widespread prevalence of the problem,” according to the lawsuit.

The cases are: Dunn v. Takata Corp., 14-cv-24009, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida. David Takeda v Takata Corporation, 14-cv-08324, U.S. District Court, Central District of California.

–With assistance from Margaret Cronin Fisk in Detroit, Masatsugu Horie in Osaka, Ma Jie and Yuki Hagiwara in Tokyo and Andrea Tan in Singapore.

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