Takata and Honda Subjected to Class Action Lawsuits Alleging Destroyed Documents and Defects

Takata, the manufacturer of millions of airbags across the world, recently refused to take the recommendation of the NHTSA to expand the recall outside of high-humidity areas, stating airbags in other states, which were not subjected to excessive humidity, were perfectly safe. Approximately 8 million vehicles have been recalled in the United States, and if Takata agrees to a nationwide recall, another 8 million will be recalled as well. Takata officials stubbornly maintain that only prolonged exposure to airborne moisture is the cause of the defective airbags which can explode with excessive force, spraying shrapnel into the passenger area. The airbags have been implicated in at least five deaths and dozens of serious injuries.

Honda Named as Co-Defendant in Lawsuits

Prior to Takata's refusal to expand the recall of potentially deadly airbags, several dozen lawsuits were filed seeking class-action status against Takata. These complaints allege Takata was well aware of the defects associated with the airbags as far back as 2004-a good four years prior to the first recall-and that those records were deliberately destroyed. Honda, Takata's largest customer, was named as a co-defendant in the lawsuit. Approximately six million of the recalled vehicles are made by Honda. The lawsuit is asking for monetary damages and other relief for any consumer who bought a new or used Honda vehicle. According to the New York Times, Takata conducted secret testing of the airbags in 2004 after an Alabama driver suffered serious injury when a Takata airbag ruptured, spraying tiny metal fragments at the driver with explosive force.

Testing Reveals Serious Flaws in Airbags Which Some Claim Were Cheaply Made

Takata's test results revealed cracks in the steel canisters which housed the rapid inflation system of the airbag, compromising the structural integrity. Rather than initiate recalls and safety protocols once the test results were in, Takata apparently had the evidence of the tests destroyed, down to the computer backup files and all video footage. A number of internal memos and documents that indicated Takata was aware of the airbag problems for years have also come to light. U.S. regulatory agencies were totally unaware of the potential safety hazards associated with the airbags until 2008, when the first recall was issued.

Honda Agreed to Ignore Tests Which Showed Takata Airbags Were Dangerous

Honda was also made aware of the Takata test results in 2004, yet agreed with Takata officials that the test results-as well as the exploded airbag in the Alabama case-were nothing more than "anomalies," and agreed with Takata to ignore the evidence. This decision potentially endangered the lives of consumers across the United States. Dozens of lawsuits have been filed and have been submitted for consideration to federal judges who are currently weighing a request to consolidate all Takata airbag cases in a Miami U.S. court.

Is a Criminal Investigation Against Takata by the United States Likely?

The reports that Takata concealed and destroyed test results associated with the Takata airbags may require a criminal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice in addition to the civil suits filed against the company.