Saturday, January 31, 2015 - Representatives from both sides of the Tanaka airbag MDL are split on where the cases should be centralized. Miami, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and New York are the cities that have received the most focus thus far. Arguments on location include parties that value proximity to automotive facilities, proximity to where airbag accidents took place, and proximity to Japan to ease the deposition process for Japanese car officials. Both the plaintiffs and defendants agreed that the case would be best resolved in multidistrict litigation.
The lawsuits ere filed against Takata and a number of automotive companies behind claims that plaintiffs vehicles endured value depreciation due to a widespread airbag recall. Most of the defendants defendants have requested the cases be transferred to multidistrict litigation in a Pittsburgh federal court. Pittsburgh was favored as a possible location for the MDL as each automotive defendant in the case owns a facility within 500 miles of the Pennsylvania Western District Court where the cases would be heard.
The central company at fault is Takata, which manufactured the faulty airbags that have led to lawsuits against numerous automotive companies including Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. The defect in question takes place in areas with high humidity where the bags can be deployed with excess force. This causes the bag to become compromised and metal pieces can be ejected into the face of the occupants. More than 14 million of these airbags have been recalled worldwide.
Takata was allegedly aware of the issues with the airbags as far back as 2008. Takata allegedly chose to proceed with the faulty airbags, and there have been documented deaths as a result of their faulty product. The defect itself is more than a decade old, and Honda first notified regulators of its existence regulators around the time that Takata became aware of the issue.
Some plaintiffs wish for the suits to be head in Florida. Many of the incidents at the heart of the lawsuit originated in the state and Puerto Rico due to the high levels of humidity the airbags were subject to in these areas. Other plaintiffs have asked specifically for California to be the seat of the MDL, referencing Toyota‘s recent acceleration litigation to make the point that it best serves parties traveling to and from Japan. With both Honda and Toyota involved in the lawsuit, the plaintiffs feel that there will be enough Japanese involvement in the case to make a west coast location preferable. Judges on the court spoke in favor on this point in their initial judgements as opposed to the idea of centralizing the lawsuits near the defendants facilities.
The defense rebutted with claims that representatives from Japan would not simply come to the U.S. for court dates and leave. Honda‘s legal representative explained as a part of the Pittsburgh centralization proposal that automotive officials often visit the facilities regularly when they travel from Japan and this would allow the federal court located there to remain a convenient location.
New York was also included as a possible home for the MDL with its backers referencing it‘s convenient air connections and grand jury actions already underway in connection with the lawsuits.
A federal judge has yet to be assigned to the case, but a ruling deciding on the centralization matter is expected to come in February.