Farmington Hills, Michigan

HomeMichiganFarmington Hills

Email Mark Bello Mark Bello on LinkedIn Mark Bello on Twitter Mark Bello on Facebook Mark Bello on Avvo
Mark Bello
Mark Bello
Attorney • (877) 377-7848

Announcing the Largest Auto Recall in U.S. History

1 comment

Takata Corporation, the Japanese supplier linked to faulty airbags in millions of cars, has widened the scale of potential recalls in the U.S. to nearly 34 million vehicles, according to the Detroit News. Pressured by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) since late last year, the move is expected to lead to the largest auto recall in U.S. history.

Nowadays, most recalls are done on a voluntary basis and it is rare for an automaker or supplier to reject a government request. But, that is exactly what Takata did. The company reportedly knew about the problem dating as far back as 2004, yet kept critical details, such as airbag ruptures, injuries, and deaths involving its vehicles, away from federal regulators and the public. In fact, Honda reported its death and injury tallies to regulators only in a confidential submission in December 2011, when it issued its fifth recall for the rupture defect, according to the NHTSA.

When an air bag exploded in a Honda Accord in 2004, shooting out metal fragments and injuring the car’s driver, Honda and Takara deemed it “an anomaly” and did not issue a recall or seek the involvement of federal safety regulators. In December 2009, the air bag in another Honda Accord exploded after the driver hit a mail truck. When the air bag exploded, shrapnel propelled into the driver’s neck and chest; she bled to death in front of her three children. To date, the air bags have been linked to at least six deaths and more than 100 injuries. All deaths are in cars made by Honda.

Initially the exploding air bags were considered a problem only in hot and humid climates, but the recall has been expanded nationally as Takata and affected automakers still continue searching for the root cause of the inflator defect. The recall encompasses vehicles from 11 automakers that might have one of four defective inflators in either the driver or passenger-side air bag. The repairs could take several years to complete.

At least a five lawsuits have been settled, yet none have gone to trial. In fact, a report suggested that secret settlements in some earlier lawsuits may have helped conceal problems with the recalled airbags. Dating back to 2004, Honda settled claims confidentially with at least five victims injured by air bags. In the 2009 incident, the woman’s estate sued Honda and Takata for wrongful death, ultimately settling for $3 million. Sadly, Takata sought, and the plaintiff agreed, to, a “protective order” that hid the documents from the public, documents that could have shined a spotlight on the defective airbags.

This is a perfect example of why secret settlements, particularly in product liability cases, are a dangerous thing.  They allow manufacturers to hide known dangers for decades, put profits first, and prevent more lawsuits caused by their violation of public safety. Such deals are why so much remains unknown about defective products.

Every day, millions of drivers put their faith in the fact that safety features like airbags, which are designed to protect us, will work should the need arise.  It is extremely disheartening when those items designed to protect us actually cause us more harm. It is equally unfortunate that companies will go to such lengths in order to avoid paying damages. When will manufacturers realize that a defective vehicle is a danger to everyone? They owe it to consumers to put safety first and to act responsibility by issuing timely recalls and correcting problems. Equally important is that vehicle owners respond to the recalls by ensuring their vehicle is repaired. In the real world, people often ignore recalls. Most will not periodically search the NHTSA databases for vehicle recalls or links to injury, death and defects. By seeking secrecy, companies buy time and silence.

As a safety measure, Lawsuit Financial encourages all auto owners to periodically check the NHTSA website for vehicle recalls and to register for an email notification if a recall is ever issued while you own the vehicle. You should also act responsibly by reporting problems to a dealer or manufacturer immediately; help manufacturers and the NHTSA notify the public and initiate recalls, when necessary.

Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.

1 Comment

Have an opinion about this post? Please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.

  1. Dennis Lawson says:
    up arrow

    I have one of the Honda civic cars with the recall.it seems like there was not a convenient time to schedule a deactivation of my dangerous air bag . Now injured on the job whiplash from being t boned by a forklift wile on a forklift 13′ up into the air and working light duty I’m depressed to thank I have to be concerned about my safety of someone else fault