Takata, Honda Subjects Of Class-Action Lawsuit Over Alleged Secret Airbag Tests, Destroyed Documents

It was only a matter of time before Takata, the company responsible for the deadly airbag defect that resulted in nearly 16 million vehicles being recalled, faced a lawsuit regarding the company’s allegedly hidden tests of defective airbags and the years-long coverup that ensued.

Bloomberg Businessweek reports that eight consumers filed a complaint seeking class-action status against Takata claiming the company discovered the defect in tests back in 2004 – four years before the first recall – and then destroyed those records.

Takata’s largest customer, Honda, which accounts for about 6 million of the recalled vehicles, was named as a co-defendant in the suit. So far, the car company has been linked to at least three of the four deaths related to the airbags.

The latest lawsuit, filed by consumers who each bought a new or used Honda-made vehicle, seeks to sue on behalf of anyone in the U.S. who purchased or leased a vehicles with Takata airbags, as well as unspecified money damages and other relief.

The suit cites a report released last week by The New York Times that details Takata’s secret testing and alleged coverup of defect findings.

According to the Times report, Takata began secret tests of its airbags back in 2004 after receiving a report that one of its devices had ruptured, shooting metal fragments at an Alabama Honda driver.

“The testing revealed that the steel canisters used to house the air bag’s rapid inflation system contained cracks that compromised its structural integrity,” according to the complaint, which included the Times’ report. “Upon learning that information, Takata ordered its technicians to destroy all evidence of the test results, including video footage and computer backup files.”

Two airbags that had shown issues were discounted by officials at the company because they were retrieved from cars with cracks in the windshields. The employees say executives, including Takata vice president of engineering Al Bernat, considered the airbags “corrupted by weather.”

And so, the issue went unreported to U.S. regulators until the first recall was initiated in 2008.

Representatives for Takata and Honda were unable to provide comment to Businessweek about the new suit.

Since the first class-action seeking lawsuit was filed against Takata in late October, about a dozen more have been submitted for consideration.

Businessweek reports that a panel of federal judges is weighing a request to consolidate the cases in a U.S. court in Miami.

Takata Accused in Suit of Burying Bad Air Bag Test Result [Bloomberg Businessweek]

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