Airbag manufacturer Takata has settled a product liability lawsuit involving the injury and death of a woman whose car crashed in 2014. According to a report in The New York Times, the settlement was announced moments before a crucial hearing in which a Florida judge could have ordered the company’s CEO, Shigehisa Takada, to testify in the case. The sudden settlement was unexpected even to the plaintiff’s attorneys who were preparing to go to trial.
Airbag Deployment Paralyzed Victim
The victim, Patricia Mincey, was paralyzed from the neck down after the Takata airbag in her 2001 Honda Civic forcefully inflated after a collision on June 15, 2014. The airbag was among those recalled by Honda just a week after Mincey’s crash. Mincey filed the lawsuit the following year alleging that Takata had knowingly designed and manufactured the dangerous and defective airbags that catastrophically injured her. She died in April at the age of 77 from complications from her quadriplegia.
Takata airbags have been linked to at least 14 other deaths and more than 100 injuries. Takata’s airbags could rupture when they deploy in a crash shooting metal fragments toward drivers or passengers. More than 60 million vehicles have been recalled globally in connection with these faulty airbags. The settlement amount in Mincey’s case has not been revealed. Takata was slow to settle this case because Mincey’s airbag did not rupture. Instead, it deployed forcefully crushing her spine and rendering her paralyzed.
Takata Deliberately Hid Defects
So far, pretrial hearings and depositions have yielded pages and pages of memos and internal documents, which clearly show that the company told engineers to fake test results and hid these defects from consumers in order to protect its bottom line. The company dragged its feet on recalls for years endangering millions of lives. Last month, federal regulators warned that airbags in more than 300,000 vehicles must be replaced immediately because the risk of them exploding is “unacceptably high.”
Takata also faces a class-action lawsuit brought by owners of affected cars and is the subject of a criminal investigation by the Justice Department. As auto defect attorneys who strive to protect the rights of victims and families, we welcome this settlement and hope that Takata is held accountable every step of the way.