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Spangenberg, Shibley & Liber, LLP | Feb 17, 2015


Categories: Product Liability

In a recent blog post, we reported on the recall of car airbags that had been manufactured by the Japanese firm Takata. In the months since, the massive recall has continued to worsen. Takata is the company responsible for designing and manufacturing the inflators in the airbags which, due to a design defect, can explode in an accident and spray vehicle occupants with shrapnel-like shards of plastic and metal.

Lawmakers have now called for a criminal investigation, due to the fact that Takata Corp. destroyed results of airbag tests. In 2004, after a Honda Accord’s inflator exploded in an accident, injuring the driver, Takata secretly tested around 50 airbag inflators. They discovered that two of the airbags cracked during the tests - a condition that can lead to rupture. Yet instead of alerting federal safety regulators to the possible danger and the risks presented by the inflators, Takata executives ordered the lab technicians to delete and dispose of the testing data. The firm has acknowledged that it conducted these tests, yet claims the tests were unrelated to the airbag crisis.

U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Edward Markey, D-Mass, have said that “Reports that Takata concealed and destroyed test results revealing fatal air bag defects, along with other evidence that the company was aware of these deadly problems, clearly require a criminal investigation by the Department of Justice. If the reports are true, the company must be held accountable for the horrific deaths and injuries that its wrongdoing caused.”

More than 14 million vehicles from 11 automakers, including more than 5 million from Honda, have been recalled since 2013 due to the deadly Takata airbag inflators.

U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., a safety advocate and then-chair of the Senate’s panel on consumer protection stated, “If these reports are true, they show a company more concerned with profits than the lives of consumers.”