We’ve talked about Takata a lot over the years. Back then, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued an updated recall summary that expanded the number of vehicles affected and highlighted a previously unknown problem with side-impact airbags. The updated statement was the most recent part of an ongoing recall concerning defective airbags that seriously endangered vehicle occupants.
The recall is centered on a compound called ammonium nitrate. The substance is part of the propellant that deploys an airbag during an accident. In Takata’s airbags, the propellant mixture is too reactive, resulting in an explosion that shreds the metal around the airbag and propels it into the cabin of the vehicle.
More than a decade of covering their tracks
New testimony from a former Takata airbag engineer has exposed that the company was aware of the issue as early as 16 years ago. Thomas Sheridan was deposed in early February. His testimony was part of a lawsuit brought by a Florida woman who was paralyzed when her airbag deployed in a June 2014 accident.
According to the testimony, Sheridan tried to examine parts from failed performance tests that were part of a report to Honda in June 2000. He found that the Takata’s Vice President of Engineering, Al Bernat, had ordered the parts to be discarded. Other information has shown that Bernat discarded evidence from tests in 2004 as well.
The New York Times reported, “Takata did not report the failures to Honda, according to court documents. Instead, it manipulated data to hide results that showed the propellant could combust violently, causing its casing — called an inflater — to overpressurize and rupture, according to the documents. In several instances, “pressure vessel failures,” or airbag ruptures, were reported to Honda as normal airbag deployments, the documents said.”
Safety regulators need to send a message
Allen Kam, a 25-year veteran of the NHTSA, told the Times, “From a public safety standpoint, it’s deplorable behavior. If it were just a cosmetic thing, it would be deplorable behavior. But people could get maimed and killed by this defect.” Safety regulators are working overtime on the issue; Takata has been fined $70 million for failure to disclose defects in a timely fashion. The accusation of manipulating test data could see another penalty of $130 million.
This is a terrifying example of big business deciding that profits matter more than lives. It is a real world situation where real people have suffered because of unethical and disgusting behavior. Our government works to protect the public interest; at Rocky McElhaney Law Firm, we work to protect you. If you or someone you know has been the victim of negligent design resulting in a defective product, you may be entitled to compensation. Our professional Nashville defective product lawyers can evaluate your case and help protect your rights. Contact us today for a free consultation at one of our offices in Nashville, Gallatin or Knoxville.