Auto industry warned Takata about airbag safety problems more than a decade ago, New York Times reports

by Jim Orr

A review conducted by the New York Times of the design and performance specifications for airbags manufactured by Takata showed that the auto industry raised concerns about the safety of these products more than a decade ago. At least 14 deaths and 100 cases of serious injuries caused by the accidental explosion of the ammonium nitrate cartridges in airbags sold by Takata have been reported.

According to the New York Times report, Takata began using ammonium nitrate in the cartridges that trigger the explosion which inflates its airbags in the 1990s because they could be produced less expensively. Other airbag suppliers had also tried making airbag cartridges using ammonium nitrate, but had discontinued their use after tests revealed they could become highly volatile due to changes in moisture or temperature, making the cartridges prone to violent explosions.

These findings prompted the United States Council on Automotive Research—the consortium of automakers that sets design and safety standards for airbags—to call in 2004 for design modifications to airbags using ammonium nitrate to give them “resistance to temperature aging in an environment of high humidity” in order to prevent accidental explosions. However, these design specifications were never enforced by the auto industry.

Honda—the most widespread user of Takata airbags—began recalling cars with the ammonium nitrate airbags in 2008 after they were linked to accidental explosions. In 2013, other automakers that used Takata airbags also began recalling vehicles equipped with the devices. So far, a total of 64 million vehicles equipped with Takata airbags have been recalled, making it the largest automotive safety recall in U.S. history.

Joan Claybrook, formerly of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, says that the self-regulatory nature of the auto industry played an important role in the Takata recall. A former Takata engineer says that this lack of industry oversight enabled the company to avoided detection in getting the now-recalled ammonium nitrate airbags to the market. According to the engineer’s testimony in a lawsuit filed against Takata, workers at the company’s plant in La Grange, Georgia manipulated safety test results in order to make the ammonium nitrate airbags appear safer than they actually were.

Lawsuits have been filed against Takata and auto manufacturers who used the company’s airbags on behalf of individuals who were killed or injured in accidental explosions caused by defective ammonium nitrate inflators. Takata and Honda have settled at least six lawsuits filed by the families of individuals who were killed due to exploding Takata airbags. A class action lawsuit has also been filed on behalf of drivers who purchased or leased a Honda model containing one of the recalled Takata airbags.

Takata Airbag-Equipped Vehicle Owners May Qualify to File a Lawsuit

More than 64 million vehicles worldwide that were equipped with Takata airbags have been recalled, including Acura, Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, Honda, GMC, Infiniti, Lexus, Mazda, Mercedes Benz, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Pontiac, Saab, Saturn, Subaru, Toyota, and Volkswagen models. A list of vehicles that have been recalled is available on our website.

If you purchased or leased a vehicle equipped with a Takata airbag, or if you or a loved one has been injured due to an accidental airbag explosion, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit against Takata or the manufacturer of the vehicle. The first step in taking legal action is to speak with an experienced product liability attorney to advise you of your legal rights.

The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have the legal expertise to pursue product liability or personal injury claims against Takata or any auto manufacturers who used airbags made by Takata. Our law firm has the financial resources to handle even the most complex cases automotive recall cases from beginning to end. Heygood, Orr & Pearson is committed to achieving justice for our clients, whatever the cost.

For a free legal consultation and to find out whether you may qualify to file a lawsuit, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001. You can reach us by following the link to our free case evaluation form and answering a few questions to get started.

by Jim Orr

Jim Orr is a licensed attorney and a partner at HO&P focusing on business and personal injury litigation. Jim was selected multiple times to the Super Lawyers List and has tried 70+ cases to verdict.