Recently, federal safety regulators determined that yet another person was killed by an exploding Takata airbag in the vehicle he was driving. This brings the total number of deaths linked to the faulty airbags to 10. Millions of vehicles with similar airbags remain on the road with the dangerous problem still un-remedied. As investigators pour over evidence in an effort to uncover all of the details in the product failure, recent testimony in a Florida court has added a new and sinister layer to the story.
It turns out that Takata engineers may have discarded and altered testing data in an attempt to cover up the product failures more than 16 years ago.
Exposing a cover-up
In his deposition, a Takata engineer stated that certain airbag parts had failed during performance tests in 2000. He attempted to examine those parts, but soon learned that the parts had been ordered disposed of by Takata’s Vice President of Engineering at that time. The same Vice President has been linked to other reports of discarded evidence connected to airbag failure.
Takata manipulated data to hide testing results. The results showed that the airbag inflators could detonate so violently, that they would cause the airbag to over-pressurize and rupture. The casing enclosing the propellant would explode into dangerous metal shards fired into the passenger compartment and driver of the automobile.
An explosive situation
Despite the evidence to support a national recall, Takata initially issued a narrower recall claiming that the malfunction was due to persistent high humidity in certain regions of the U.S. where the airbag explosions had occurred. Ammonium nitrate, the chemical used as a propellant in the faulty Takata airbags, is known to be sensitive to temperature changes and moisture. However, the compound also breaks down over time, explaining the spontaneous explosions. There are other airbag propellants available on the market, but ammonium nitrate is extremely inexpensive.
It is almost inconceivable—a product that is specifically designed to protect people from serious injury, instead turns out to kill or maim them. Even if there is a way to wrap your mind around the tragedy, it suddenly expands by geometric proportions with the knowledge that the manufacturer knew about the dangerous product defects years before anyone was harmed and yet did nothing to prevent the deaths of ten people and injuries to 100 more.
Little consolation for victims
As a result of the faulty airbags and attempted data cover-up, Honda ended its long-time relationship with Takata. But Honda vehicles aren’t the only ones affected by the faulty airbags. Five other manufacturers have launched national recalls for their vehicles that contain Takata airbags.
Hopefully there will never be another victim of an exploding Takata airbag. For those who have been injured as a result of this serious product defect, the harm is only compounded by the knowledge that it not only could have been prevented, there was an intentional effort made to cover it up.
Product defect cases call for experienced attorneys
Takata airbag failure is just one example of thousands of dangerous—or deadly—auto and product defects that come to light every year. Understanding the complexities in these cases often entails thorough investigation to uncover exactly what occurred and all those who should be held accountable. That’s why only a law firm experienced in auto defects and product liability law should be consulted about these cases. For victims of these airbag tragedies , nothing less than their future is at stake. Philadelphia law firm Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, P.C. is just such a firm. If you or a loved one have been the victim of an auto defect or other product defect, please contact the firm at (866) 569-3400 for a FREE initial consultation.