The death toll for passengers in vehicles equipped with Takata air bags has now reached 12 – 11 in the U.S. and one overseas. Honda has confirmed that the rupture of a Takata air bag in a 2002 Honda Civic that crashed in Texas last month resulted in the driver’s death. American Honda Motor Co. Inc. confirmed that the death in Fort Bend County, Texas, was caused by a Takata Corp. air bag and said the vehicle was the subject of multiple recalls and a market campaign since 2011. Representatives from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Sheriff’s Department of Fort Bend County, Texas, and Takata were all present at the inspection where Honda confirmed the cause of death.
Then, in mid-April, a Jacksonville, Fla., woman who sued Japanese auto supplier Takata after the air bag in her 2001 Honda Civic exploded with excessive force died from her injuries. Patricia Mincey, 76, was involved in a 2014 crash that should have been relatively minor with no air bag deployment. However, the crash became catastrophic when the Takata air bag erupted violently and crushed Ms. Mincey’s spine, leaving her a quadriplegic. Ms. Mincey is now believed to be the 11th person in the U.S. to die from injuries caused by defective Takata-made airbags.
As we have previously reported, Takata air bags have been recalled worldwide because of a defect linked to the use of inexpensive, but volatile ammonium nitrate that causes the air bags to explode. Chemicals and shrapnel can be sprayed at passengers when this happens. Takata was hit with civil penalties topping out at $200 million in November, the largest penalty ever imposed by NHTSA. The manufacturer has admitted that it failed to alert NHTSA of the defect despite knowing about it, and admitted further that data submitted to the agency about the defect since at least 2009 was “selective, incomplete or inaccurate,” according to the agency.
NHTSA announced in January that the number of vehicles affected by defective Takata air bag inflators was expected to grow by 5 million, up to 24 million total. That came after NHTSA confirmed that a faulty rupture had caused a ninth U.S. fatality. The death was due to an air bag inflator in a 2006 Ford Ranger that limited previous testing had found was not at risk. Ford has since recalled additional Ford Rangers for a new total of more than 390,000. The latest death is the 11th fatality linked to Takata air bag inflators in the U.S. and the 12th confirmed death worldwide.
Sources: Law360.com, Los Angeles Times, The Palm Beach Post