What Does Takata's Guilty Plea Mean For U.S. Drivers?May 3, 2017 | Category: Defective Products, Unsafe Vehicles | Share
34 million cars have already been recalled over the last five years. By 2020 the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) expects the total to be 42 million. There have been at least 11 deaths and 180 injured in the United States linked to defective Takata airbags.
In late February 2017, Japanese auto parts maker Takata Corp. pleaded guilty to one count of fraud, and agreed to pay $1 billion for concealing a defect in millions of its airbag inflators. This included compensation funds for automakers and victims of the defective airbags.
"For over a decade, Takata lied to its customers about the safety and reliability of its ammonium nitrate-based airbag inflators," U.S. Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco said in a statement. “The defects caused the airbags to inflate with too much force and send metal shards into the cabin of the car.”
The penalties include $850 million in restitution to the car companies for recalls and $125 million for victim’s physically injured by Takata airbags. The actual criminal penalty was $25 million, according to National Public Radio.
The company's chief financial officer, Yoichiro Nomura, entered the guilty plea on Takata's behalf in federal court in Detroit. He also agreed that Takata will be sold or merged with another company in order to pay the fines.
Takata's penalty is small compared with the one imposed on Volkswagen, which must buy back cars and pay up to $21 billion in penalties and compensation to owners over its emissions-cheating scandal. U.S. District Court Judge George Steeh approved the $1 billion settlement, which could have been $1.5 billion, because Takata could have been pushed into bankruptcy which may have delayed the efforts to replace millions of potentially deadly inflators on the road.
Do U.S. automakers have any liability in the problem?
Lawyers for U.S. vehicle owners have sued Honda Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co., BMW AG, Ford Motor Co., Mazda Motor Corp. and other automakers, alleging they knew about the defective Takata inflators for years but kept using them.
U.S. safety regulators have said automakers are responsible for replacing defective airbags no matter what happens to Takata. “The automakers could face costs to replace all the defective airbags that would be 5, 6 or 9 times the $850 million set aside in the fund,” Judge Steeh said, indicating the total replacement cost could be more than $7.6 billion.
Now what are consumers with these faulty airbags supposed to do to remedy the problem?
According to the NHTSA, certain years and models of automobiles manufactured by Toyota, Honda, Mazda, BMW, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Chrysler, Ford and General Motors have been the subject of recall notices for defective Takata airbags. If you are unsure whether your vehicle has been recalled due to a potentially faulty Takata airbag, you can enter the VIN (vehicle identification number) at this NHTSA website http://www.safercar.org dedicated to the recall. In most vehicles, the 17-digit VIN can be found on the driver's side, near the base of the windshield.
The government is prioritizing repairs by vehicle age and climate, since high humidity is a factor in the inflator ruptures. Dealers will replace the airbags for free as parts are available, but it will take years to replace all of the affected airbags inflators.
Other suppliers, including Autoliv, are also making replacement airbags. As of early December 2016, nearly 12.5 million airbags had already been replaced, according to the Boston Globe.
Fort Myers Defective Product Attorney, Randall Spivey said, “If you or a loved one has been harmed by a defective Takata airbag, contact Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A. We have the experience to handle your case.”
Fort Myers Defective Product Attorney, Randall L. Spivey is a Board Certified Trial Attorney – the highest recognition for competence bestowed by the Florida Bar and a distinction earned by just one (1%) percent of Florida attorneys. He has handled over 2,000 personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout Florida. For a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal rights, contact the Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A., in Lee County at 239.337.7483 or toll free at 1.888.477.4839, or by email to Randall@SpiveyLaw.com. Visit SpiveyLaw.com for more information. You can contact Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A.in Charlotte County at 941.764.7748 and in Collier County 239.793.7748.