Friday, January 20, 2017 - Takata has been in multidistrict lawsuits news for all the wrong reasons lately, namely a huge fine levied against the company and a massive increase to the recall that has already taken a toll on their global reputation. The civil penalty, levied by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, starts at $70 million and can rise up to $200 if the company does not comply with the guidelines laid out by the governing body. On top of this, Honda increase the recall of their cars that have Takata airbags to 1.3 million with a 772,000 increase announced in early January.
Takata first acknowledged its role in the defective qualities of the airbags in May of 2015 when the company announced the recall on cars that included the product. Plaintiffs claim however that Takata knew of the airbag problems long before the litigation against them began to heat up. The allegations claim that Takata intentionally withheld the information from consumers in an effort to avoid the recall and backlash that is currently underway, and recklessly put the lives of those using the defective products at risk to do so.
According to the claims filed by plaintiffs in the MDL making lawsuit news around the country, the defective airbags manufactured by Takata are susceptible to ripping open when activated. This results in debris bursting from the vehicle with the potential to seriously injure and even kill passengers. Takata has publicly acknowledged that the information it provided to the NHTSA was "selective, incomplete or inaccurate." Plaintiffs claim that this admission proves that more could have been done to warn consumers of the serious defects at the heart of their airbag systems.
There are a number of distinctions within the MDL that must be made in short order as the size will cause divisions in organizing the segments of plaintiffs, and the number of defendants that will be allowed to be a part of the MDL is ironed out. The judge presiding over the MDL, U.S. District Judge Federico A. Moreno, will be deciding how to deal with the plaintiff pool, which can be split between auto parts recyclers and consumers. Those two parties can then file claims against either the automakers or Honda, potentially creating four distinct claims for Judge Moreno to section off. Honda has also announced the recall of motorcycles as the airbag defect is reaching beyond traditional automobiles.
In addition to that decision, Judge Moreno will be determining whether or not General Motors LLC and Chrysler Group LLC will be included in the MDL proceedings, or whether they will be subject to a different set of lawsuits that have to be filed by plaintiffs specifically seeking claims against those companies. No matter how the MDL works out however, there will continue to be a steady stream of plaintiffs upset with Takata over their handling of the faulty inflators that have not just caused massive inconvenient recalls for consumers, but posed real danger and killed a number of them along the way.