Airbag Malfunction Sparks Lawsuit

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Crashed Toyota Matrix, by Wikimedia user W. Robert Howell, licensed by Creative Commons.

Airbag may cause injury.

Millions of cars are produced and sold each year. A Japanese company, the Takata Corporation, manufactures airbags for at least eleven automakers for nearly fifteen years. Currently, they are facing lawsuits due to faulty airbags. Takata Corporation’s airbags have been reported to rupture and spray bits of metal at the driver and front seat passengers. This issue first surfaced in 2004, but Takata did not issue a recall until 2008. Takata bowed to government pressure and declared many of its products defective, agreeing to double the number of air bag inflators being recalled to 33.8 million, making it the largest auto recall in U.S. history.

Experts believe that high-humidity can cause moisture to seep inside the airbag inflator. This can destabilize the chemical explosive. Takata uses ammonium nitrate to make the small explosion that inflates the air bags, but in some cases the chemical burns too quickly and blows apart a metal canister designed to contain the blast. Due to this fault in the airbag’s propellant, the smallest fender bender can set off the airbags. People have reported injury, death and blindness as a result of the spewed metal. Kylan Langlinais, 22, of Lafayette, Louisiana, died in a hospital on April 9, four days after the 2005 Honda Accord she was driving crashed into a utility pole in the city, according to a lawsuit filed by her family in federal court. Her air bag exploded with too much force, sending out shrapnel that severed her right carotid artery. The lawyer representing the family, said he believes Langlinais would have walked away from the crash if not for the injury from the exploding air bag. The doctors could not find any other injuries during an exploratory surgery.

Thus far, more than 14 million automobiles from 11 different automakers have been recalled. Since 2004, over 100 injuries and at least four deaths have been linked to Takata’s defective products. The National Highway Traffic Safety Adminstration are strongly urging owners of recalled cars to get them fixed immediately as it is “essential to personal safety.” Currently, recalls are mostly focused on cars sold or registered in regions with high temperatures and humidity, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.