MONTGOMERY, ALA. (January 8, 2015) – Honda Motor Co. has agreed to pay fines totaling $70 million to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) after an independent audit revealed the automaker failed to report 1,729 deaths and injuries to the agency. The non-reporting or under-reporting spanned a period of nearly 10 years, leading up to 2014. NHTSA started the investigation into Honda on Nov. 3. This came after a wave of class action lawsuits were filed against the company related to a defective and potentially deadly Takata airbag installed in many Honda vehicles.

“This recent fine involving Honda is illustrative of a much deeper problem and that is one relating to poor and inadequate regulation by the federal government of a very powerful automobile industry,” said Beasley Allen Principal & Founder Jere L. Beasley. “The automakers’ bosses know full well that they can get away with not only putting cars with known safety defects on the market, but that NHTSA won’t catch them in all too many instances. The Melton case in Georgia, in particular, is a prime example of this sort of thing. Had not Lance Cooper, the lawyer representing the Meltons, discovered a serious safety defect GM knew about and concealed, NHTSA may never have discovered the problem. Unfortunately, hundreds of innocent victims had been killed or severely injured before GM admitted the problem existed. Now millions of cars have been recalled by the automaker,” Beasley said. “And now we see the results of poor regulation in the millions of vehicles being recalled because of defective and highly dangerous airbags. Ten automakers and the Japanese supplier are all involved in this most recent debacle.”

Lawyers from Beasley Allen, along with co-counsel, are among those who have filed class action lawsuits against Honda for economic losses related to the potentially defective airbags manufactured by Tokyo-based auto parts supplier Takata. The lawsuit represents those who own certain model Honda vehicles that contain the Takata airbags, which may deploy with excessive force, actually exploding, sending metal fragments into the vehicle as shrapnel and potentially seriously injuring or killing occupants. The defect has been linked to numerous deaths and injuries, and Beasley Allen lawyers are involved in a number of those cases.

Takata has been steadfast in its refusal to expand recalls involving its potentially deadly airbags. It has limited the focus of the recall to areas of high humidity, insisting the problem is restricted to a moisture sensor in the airbag. This move has left auto manufacturers holding the bag, forcing them to either expand recalls on their own for vehicles that may contain the airbags, or suffer the consequences if the airbags cause more injuries and deaths.

Honda says its “under reporting” to NHTSA is the result of “inadvertent” errors in data entry, and computer problems. Honda will pay two $35 million civil penalties as a result of its failure to report deaths and serious injuries to NHTSA as required by law. On the heels of the General Motors defective ignition switch fiasco, in which it was revealed GM concealed its defect for more than 11 years, the NHTSA has pledged to get tougher on automakers who do not report serious safety issues in a timely manner. The agency issued more than $126 million in fines in 2014, including fining GM $35 million for the ignition switch issue.

Source: Law 360

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