Takata Under U.S. Criminal Investigation

A U.S. Senate committee hearing will take place regarding Japanese air bag manufacturer, Takata Corp. The full Commerce Committee has scheduled a November 20th hearing in Washington, which will likely include company representatives and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) officials.

The hearing was announced Thursday following the disclosure of a fifth death, which occurred last summer in Malaysia, bringing the death toll to five, as a result of the defective air bags. The other four deaths took place in the U.S.

Takata was accused in a lawsuit of years of covering up knowledge of defective air bags. The suit in Los Angeles federal court says Takata discovered the flaw in tests more than ten years ago and then destroyed the records. Takata tested its air bags after a driver of a Honda was “severely” injured in Alabama in 2004, according to the complaint. “The testing revealed that steel canisters used to house the air bag’s rapid inflation system contained cracks that compromised its structural integrity,” according to the complaint. “Upon learning that information, Takeda ordered its technicians to destroy all evidence of the test results, including video footage and computer backup files.”

Nearly 8 million U.S. vehicles have been recalled in the past year by ten different automakers due to this problem. As we have previously reported on our blog, many of the recalls have been limited to U.S. areas with high humidity. Although several lawmakers have called for a national recall, NHTSA and Takata said the problem has only surfaced in areas with average dew points above 60 degrees. Takata claimed that airborne moisture could cause the air bag propellant to explode with greater force than designed, causing metal canisters that hold the air bags to explode.

U.S. regulators and the U.S. Attorney’s office in New York City are looking into whether the company failed to disclose information about the air bag problems. Takata said it is cooperating with NHTSA.

Takata has received a general subpoena from a federal grand jury in New York, as confirmed by Takata spokesman, Alby Berman.

Automakers replacing air bags include Nissan, Chrysler, Ford, Mazda, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Toyota, BMW and General Motors.

Chrysler Group will begin replacing defective air bag inflators in more than 371,000 U.S. vehicles in early December, according to documents filed by the automaker with U.S. safety regulators. The Chrysler vehicles from model year 2003-2007 are among an estimated 4.2 million involved in the recalls in high humidity regions announced in June by NHTSA. The Chrysler vehicles include the Dodge Ram, Durango, Dakota, Charger and Magnum, and Chrysler Aspen and 300.

If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of an auto defect or safety feature failure, you may have grounds to file a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer. Contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878) for more information.

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