Millions of vehicle owners in Texas and around the country received recall notices in recent years to fix faulty airbags produced by the now defunct Japanese auto parts manufacturer Takata. Hundreds of injuries and at least 17 deaths have been linked to airbags with faulty inflators that caused the airbags to go off unexpectedly, showering drivers and passengers with metal and plastic debris. Seat belt webbing made by the company could also be defective.
Test data may have been manipulated
The problem came to light when a Chinese company examined Takata records and found that executives at the company may have manipulated the results of seat belt tests to conceal defects. The Chinese company says that it is now studying tests conducted over two decades to determine the extent of the problem. Federal watchdogs and consumer advocacy groups will likely be paying close attention to the findings as Takata, which filed for bankruptcy in 2017, once produced seat belt webbing that was installed in four out of 10 Japanese passenger vehicles and about a third of the cars manufactured worldwide.
Fines and criminal charges
Takata has been accused of wrongdoing in the past. When the company was investigated in connection with the faulty airbags, it was discovered that executives had tried to cover the problem up. Three executives were charged by federal prosecutors for the role they played in the coverup, and the company agreed to pay a $1 billion fine.
When consumers file lawsuits after being injured in accidents caused by defective and dangerous products, they generally seek compensatory damages to cover their medical expenses, pain and suffering and lost income. However, if the facts of the case suggest that the manufacturer involved knew about a defect and tried to conceal it, experienced personal injury attorneys may also seek punitive damages. These are damages awarded not to compensate accident victims but to punish the defendant’s wrongdoing and deter other manufacturers from similar actions.