Takata Corporation, the Japanese airbag manufacturer, has pleaded guilty in a U.S. federal court to a felony charge as part of a $1 billion settlement that included compensation funds for victims of its faulty airbag inflators. According to a Reuters news report, a U.S. District Court Judge on Monday approved the previously agreed settlement in spite of objections from plaintiffs’ attorneys that the criminal settlement identified automakers as victims of fraudulent activity.
Takata Deceived Consumers
The judge said automakers could be victims of Takata’s decisions to hide evidence over 15 years that the inflators were faulty and still be subject to civil litigation for harm done to individuals. The judge said he could have imposed a $1.5 billion fine, which is allowed under federal guidelines, but that he approved the $1 billion agreement because Takata could otherwise be pushed into bankruptcy delaying efforts to replace millions of potentially deadly inflators that are still in vehicles on our roadways.
Lawyers representing injured victims and families of those who were killed by the defective airbag inflators said automakers acted recklessly because they were simply focused on the low price of Takata’s inflators and concerned that if they stopped using those products, they might not have sufficient supply. So far, 16 people have died as a result of these defective airbag inflators and 31 million cars have been recalled worldwide since 2008. All but one of the deaths have occurred in Honda vehicles. The airbag inflators in these vehicles deteriorate over a period of time. So, when the airbag deploys, they disintegrate sending shards of metal flying into the passenger compartment.
Justice for Victims
Lawmakers have called for more compensation to be diverted to victims and have said automakers shouldn’t get any payments through this settlement. That’s because we don’t really know the extent to which the automaker was complicit in Takata’s deception. When so many victims have suffered injuries and have lost their loved ones as a result of these defective airbag inflators, it is unfair for automakers to get a portion of this settlement. It should be earmarked for victims and their families.
Takata should also be required to repair the vehicles. So far only a third of the vehicles that were recalled for this serious safety defect, which means millions of vehicles equipped with these defective airbags are still out on our roadways, putting individuals in grave danger. If you or a loved one has been injured due to these or other defective autos, contact an experienced auto defect lawyer to obtain more information about pursuing your legal rights.