The U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday, Jan. 13, that disgraced Japanese automotive supplier Takata Corp. has made a $1 billion settlement in fines and restitutions for hiding a fatal defect in its airbag inflators.
Also, three former Takata employees have been indicted by a federal grand jury. These federal indictments concerned wire fraud and conspiracy and accused the Takata workers of hiding defects in defective airbag inflators.
The workers facing charges of six counts of conspiracy and wire fraud pertaining to concealment of these defects from Takata’s major automaker customers are Hideo Nakajima, Shinichi Tanaka and Tsuneo Chikaraishi.
Takata Corp. also has agreed to plead guilty to one criminal charge, for wire fraud. But in general, it’s also responsible for fraudulent conduct in connection with its defective Takata airbag inflators.
The Department of Justice believes that Takata “repeatedly and systematically falsified critical test data related to the safety of its products” for over 10 years.”
U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade said in a statement that automotive suppliers “who sell products that are supposed to protect consumers from injury or death must put safety ahead of profits. If they choose instead to engage in fraud, we will hold accountable the individuals and business entities who are responsible.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) also has been probing allegations that Takata misled federal regulators in attempting to cover up airbag defects.
Prior to the indictments, Takata said it would pay civil penalties of up to $200 million in a deal it made with the NHTSA.
The defective Takata airbags scandal has led to at least 16 deaths and 180 injuries, as well as airbag recalls for millions of vehicles worldwide, including many millions in the United States.
The problem stems from a volatile chemical called ammonium nitrate, which is used in the inflators. It can cause the airbags to explode with excessive force, spewing shards of metal or shrapnel throughout vehicles and injuring or killing drivers or passengers.
Some victims even have succumbed in minor “fender bender” collisions when their airbag activated but exploded with too much force.
The defect can be worse in states with higher humidity, including Texas, Louisiana and other Gulf Coast states. Research indicates that moisture seeping into Takata airbags’ inflators may make them more prone to abnormal deployment in a collision.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) calls its Takata airbag recall the biggest auto recall in U.S. history. To date, more than 42 million vehicles using 69 million inflators have been recalled by over a dozen automakers.
You can check to see if your vehicle has been the subject of a Takata airbag recall by providing your vehicle’s VIN, or vehicle identification number, to the appropriate auto dealership.
If someone in your family was harmed by an exploding Takata airbag, notify the experienced injury attorneys and motor vehicle product liability lawyers at Jim Adler & Associates. We have decades of experience helping injured Americans get the justice they deserve.
After a Takata airbag injury, your family may be legally entitled to substantial financial payments by means of a Takata airbag lawsuit or a defective car parts lawsuit. Contact us today for a free legal review of your case.