Lawsuit Alleges 7th Death Tied To Defective Takata Airbags

The ongoing recall of defective Takata airbags in vehicles from 11 different car makers has already been tied to more than 100 injuries and six fatalities. A recently filed lawsuit alleges that the faulty parts are responsible for at least one additional death.

In a complaint [PDF] filed earlier this week in a federal court in Louisiana, the family of a woman who perished in an April 2015 collision is suing both Honda and Takata.

According to the suit, when the driver’s Honda Civic struck a utility pole, the Takata airbag didn’t deploy as it should but instead “violently exploded and sent metal shards, shrapnel and/or other foreign material into the passenger compartment.”

The plaintiffs say the driver sustained a penetrating injury to the right side of her neck, resulting in a loss of blood. The woman passed away four days later as a result of injuries sustained in the collision.

The lawsuit alleges that Takata has known about its exploding airbag problem as far back as 2001, and that Honda has been aware of the issue for more than a decade.

“Since at least 2004, both the Honda Defendants and the Takata Defendants have had a growing and continuing awareness of the subject defect through consumer complaints, claims, and lawsuits, and of the grave safety dangers associated with the exploding airbags,” reads the complaint, which alleges that the companies chose to respond to the problem by settling claims as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, Takata was secretly performing its own tests and Honda was not reporting all airbag-related incidents to regulators at NHTSA.

It wasn’t until 2009 that some affected vehicles began to be recalled, though the lawsuit accuses both Takata and Honda of trying to minimize the scope of the first recall. Even after it was expanded multiple times to include additional makes and models, it wasn’t until June 2014 that the Honda Civic in this lawsuit was included.

A massive recall of some 34 million vehicles was recently announced, along with a confirmation that hundreds of thousands of already-replaced Takata airbags will need to be fixed again.

The family’s attorney in the wrongful death suit tells the AP that doctors believed the driver would have survived were it not for the exploding airbag, as the damage to the vehicle was primarily on the passenger side while the driver’s side of the car was still intact.

A NHTSA rep tells the AP that the agency is collecting information on the crash and is in contact with the lawyers and Honda, while the car company theorizes that the crash might have caused the airbag inflator to rupture.

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