New Mexico Sues 15 Carmakers, Takata For Concealing Deadly Airbag Defects; Seeks $10K/Day

Image courtesy of (I Am Rob)

Just when you thought Takata’s massive shrapnel-shooting airbag debacle was beginning to wind down after the company settled federal criminal charges for $1 billion, New Mexico has filed a lawsuit against the company and 15 car companies for allegedly covering up the deadly defect.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas’ office filed a lawsuit [PDF] Tuesday alleging that Takata and 15 automakers that equipped vehicles with the automaker’s airbags failed to protect consumers from the dangerous defect that has been linked to 11 deaths.

The suit, which names Honda, Ford, Toyota, BMW, Mazda, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Nissan, FCA, Volkswagen, Audi, Ferrari, General Motors, Jaguar, and Mercedes-Benz as defendants, claims that the carmakers and Takata knew about and misrepresented the dangers posed by the airbags, which have been found to explode with such force that pieces of metal fly at occupants.

According to the complaint, Takata failed in its duty to ensure that the airbags used in the vehicles worked safely and as intended, while the carmakers failed to ensure that their vehicles were safe.

As a result, the AG’s office claims that the companies violated the state’s unfair trade practices act by producing airbags that “were unreasonable and positively dangerous.”

The suit claims that Takata and the carmakers had plenty of time to bring the airbag issues to light, as investigations found the auto part’s maker knew of the defect in the late 1990s.

“Yet Takata concealed its knowledge, repeatedly denying and obfuscating the existence of the defect from regulators and the public across the country, including in New Mexico,” the suit alleges. “Indeed, as alleged more fully herein, Takata has made a number of public statements denying or minimizing the defect and assuring the public of its commitment to driver safety, in full knowledge of the deadly consequences of its explosive airbag systems.”

While the suit acknowledges that Takata allegedly falsely represented the issues to carmakers, it also notes that some manufacturers became aware of the defect through their own investigations long before the massive national recall began.

The AG’s lawsuit seeks civil penalties of $5,000 for each defective airbag that entered the state and $5,000 for each day the companies concealed the extent of the defect or misrepresented the safety of vehicles.

To date, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says 12.4 million total airbag inflators have been repaired or replaced, including 6.7 million driver-side airbags and 5.7 million passenger-side airbags have been fixed.

To find out if a vehicle is affected by the recall owners are urged to enter their individual VIN on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s database.

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