A closer look at the defective Takata airbag recall

In Florida, as is the case in other states, consumers have expectations about the products they buy, particularly regarding the product’s safety and whether it will cause the consumer harm. We assume that if a product is available for purchase, it has been carefully vetted by the company product testing department, as well as by the federal government, and meets even the strictest of safety standards.

But when a company discovers a serious flaw with their product but fails to take action to remedy the issue, consumer lives can be put in danger. Such was the case recently for the airbag manufacturer Takata.

According to reports, Takata workers knew there was a potential problem with their airbag’s inflator units. But instead of correcting the issue, Takata failed to notify the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration about the fact that some inflator units were prone to violent explosions, thought to be a result of a chemical reaction within the unit between its propellant and the surrounding atmosphere.

As a result of Takata’s negligence, more than 100 people have suffered injuries because of flying metal debris released during the deploying of Takata’s airbags. Eight people have not been so lucky.

On top of a $70 million penalty assessed by the NHTSA this month, Takata is likely to face several personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits from victims and family members seeking compensation for their injuries. It’s unclear at this time if any civil claims have been settled or how many are pending review. What is known is that Takata’s carelessness has not impacted the lives of more than a hundred people, it has hurt its own reputation in the process.

Source:  The New York Times, “Toyota to Drop Takata as Supplier of Airbag Inflaters,” Jonathan Soble, Nov. 6, 2015