Wed, Mar 01, 2017 - Page 10 News List

Carmakers knew airbags were dangerous: lawsuit

NY Times News Service

At least four automakers knew for years that Takata Corp’s airbags were dangerous and could rupture violently, but continued to use the devices in their vehicles to save on costs, lawyers representing victims of the defect asserted in a court document filed on Monday.

The US Department of Justice’s criminal investigation into Takata’s rupture-prone airbags has so far painted automakers as unwitting victims duped by a rogue supplier that manipulated safety data to hide a deadly defect, linked to at least 11 deaths and more than 100 injuries in the US.

However, the fresh allegations against Ford Motor Co, Honda Motor Co Ltd, Nissan Motor Co Ltd and Toyota Motor Corp, made as part of a class-action lawsuit in Florida and based on company documents, point to a far deeper involvement by automakers that used Takata’s defective airbags for years.

The defect has prompted the US’ largest automotive recall ever, affecting nearly 70 million airbags in 42 million vehicles.

The plaintiffs’ filing came hours before Takata pleaded guilty, under a deal announced last month, to charges of wire fraud for providing the false data, a rare outcome for businesses accused of wrongdoing.

Federal prosecutors last month said that they had charged three Takata executives with fabricating test data and fined the Tokyo-based company US$1 billion.

“I deeply regret the circumstances that resulted in the agreement today,” Takata CEO Yoichiro Nomura said at a federal court hearing in Detroit, Michigan.

The allegations in the Florida case came in response to a court document filed by the automakers last week that pointed to Takata’s plea deal to argue that the supplier alone was culpable.

One of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, Kevin Dean, filed an objection to Takata’s plea deal on Monday in Detroit, arguing that the automakers were accomplices in a cover-up.

He urged the judge to reject the agreement and for the department to further investigate the automakers’ role.

Judge George Caram Steeh dismissed Dean’s objections, saying that Takata’s plea deal was in the best interest of the victims.

He said any further action against the automakers should be pursued in civil court, and approved the plea deal as is.

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