Takata Corp. has pled guilty to providing false data on its defective airbags to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Takata admitted that its data to NHTSA has been selective, incomplete or inaccurate for at least six years. The settlement includes a $25 million criminal fine, $125 million in victim compensation and $850 million to compensate automakers who have suffered losses from massive recalls. In addition to the settlement, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade stated that three former Takata executives had been personally charged with fabricating test data to mask a fatal airbag defect.
The $1 billion settlement comes just a little more than one year after Takata admitted in a separate $70 million settlement with U.S. auto safety regulators that it was aware of a defect in its airbag inflators, but did not issue a timely recall. To help Takata restructure and pay for such massive liabilities, Takata has agreed to have its business independently monitored.
Takata’s defective airbag inflators have injured 184 people and killed 11 people in the U.S. The inflators can explode with excessive force, launching metal shrapnel at passengers in cars and trucks. Many of those killed were involved in low-speed crashes that they otherwise likely would have survived. A 17-year-old high school senior in Texas was killed last year in such an incident. Nearly 70 million Takata airbag inflators have been recalled – making this the largest recall in U.S. history.
The recall has had little effect on real-world safety. So far, only one third of the defective inflators have been replaced. Although NHTSA promised to accelerate the pace of replacements, Takata has shown no sign of speeding up its production of replacement inflators. Until all inflators are replaced, U.S. consumers will continue to drive vehicles with ticking time bombs ready to explode upon the smallest of incidents.
Products liability lawyers in our firm are handling several cases involving defective Takata airbags. For more information on these claims, contact Cole Portis, who heads up our Personal Injury and Products Liability Section, at Cole.Portis@beasleyallen.com or by phone at 800-898-2034.