Verdict - Spring 2018 - 34

> FEATURE

Exploding
Takata Airbags

From Cover-Up To Accountability
BY CHRIS GLOVER

irbags are supposed to keep you safe, but in 2004, a driver from Greenville, Alabama1, learned what happens when a safety product
malfunctions. The driver was operating a vehicle manufactured by Honda Motor Co., Inc. (Honda), which incorporated a defective Takata airbag. The driver's side airbag exploded, injuring the driver and becoming the first incident in what would unfold
as the largest safety recall in U.S. history. 2 Honda, which owned a portion of Takata, encouraged the driver to settle personal
injury claims confidentially, to keep the incident quiet. In 2007, three more incidents involving exploding Takata airbags
injured more people. Again, Honda encouraged those who were injured to agree to confidential settlements. Honda also
demanded Takata redesign the airbags, and in November 2008, it issued a small recall for about 4,000 Honda vehicles that
included Takata airbags. The following year, a Honda driver was killed - the first airbag-related death. The company issued its first sweeping
recall of all vehicles with Takata airbags. 3 Meanwhile, Takata had conducted tests on its airbags and found a deadly defect. But it chose to try
and bury the evidence rather than widen the safety recall until pressed by federal regulators.
Marietta lost his eyesight due to defects in a

Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru,

By May 2015, six deaths worldwide were

Takata airbag contained in a Toyota Corolla.

and Toyota. Further complicating the recall,

linked to the exploding airbags, 4 prompting the

Recently, in February of 2018, a man from

many Takata airbags salvaged from wrecked

U.S. Department of Transportation's National

Buford, Georgia was badly burned when his

cars have ended up in other vehicles. 6 The

Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Takata airbag exploded in a BMW he was

complex recall is progressing slowly. An

(NHTSA) to recall Takata airbags. The agency

driving.

independent monitor reported that as of

LARGEST RECALL IN U.S. HISTORY

determined airbags were prone to instabil-

The recall stems from a highly unstable and

September 15, 2017, automakers have recalled

ity. NHTSA is overseeing the largest safety

explosive chemical compound - ammonium

43.1 million Takata airbag inflators, but only 43

recall in U.S. history, which is now linked to 22

nitrate - used in the airbag inflators. Despite

percent of those recalled have been replaced.

deaths and more than 230 injuries worldwide.

knowing its potential to cause fatal injuries,

NHTSA will continue phasing in the free recall

The initial recall included approximately 35

Takata admitted to using the compound

over the next three years. Because an airbag

million airbags, but has since skyrocketed to

because it was a cheaper alternative propel-

is likely to deteriorate faster in high heat and

approximately 50 million, which were installed

lant. The cheaper, more dangerous alternative

humidity, vehicles in states with that type

by 19 automakers in a total of 37 million vehi-

uses an excessive amount of force when an

of climate are getting priority. Older model

cles. NHTSA anticipates more airbags will

airbag deploys, spewing shrapnel onto drivers

vehicles with Takata airbags are also at the

be recalled by December 2019 - bringing the

and passengers. The explosion is very simi-

top of the recall list.

total number of affected airbags to around

lar to that of a military-grade hand grenade

65-70 million.

5

because it explodes the metal encasement

VICTIMS EXPERIENCE

One of the last official counts shows that

that houses the chemical compound and

SERIOUS INJURIES AND DEATH

there are still more than 800,000 airbags

shoots the metal in all directions. Ammonium

When airbags explode, drivers and pas-

that have not yet been recalled in Georgia.

nitrate is also known to deteriorate when it is

sengers in the immediate direction of the pro-

As a result, the injuries continue to mount.

exposed to moisture, such as humidity, further

jectiles become human pin cushions. Doctors

A Carroll County man was severely injured

enhancing the risk of explosion.

treating patients injured by the exploding air-

with laceration injuries when a Takata air-

More than a dozen global automakers

bags say the wounds resemble those of shoot-

bag exploded and propelled shrapnel into

have used Takata airbags, including BMW,

ing or stabbing victims. For example, when

his Honda. In April of 2017, a gentleman in

Fiat Chrysler, Daimler, Ford, General Motors,

highway troopers in Orlando, Florida, found

34

Georgia Trial Lawyers Association



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Verdict - Spring 2018

President’s Message
How I Obtained Justice: Sudden Emergency Doctrine
Thank You to Outgoing Verdict Chairman, Madeleine Simmons
Look Before You Leap: Conducting Jury Focus Groups Before Trial
Voir Dire In Low Speed, Soft Tissue Injury Cases
Defeating Reptile Theory Motions in Limine
Leading the Jury Down the Right Path: Framing Your Case During Voir Dire
Hernandez v. State: Empowering Jurors to Seek the Truth
Exploding Takata Airbags From Cover-Up To Accountability
Using Simple Technology to Pick a Better Jury
Case Updates: Who Really Loses When Medical Funding Becomes an Issue at Trial?
Professional Practice Pointers: Voir Dire, An interview with Cobb County State Court Judge Allison Barnes Salter
Dig In To Do Good: Making the World a Better Place
Welcome New GTLA Members!
Champion Members
Meet The Experts
Index to Advertisers/Advertiser.com
Verdict - Spring 2018 - Intro
Verdict - Spring 2018 - bellyband1
Verdict - Spring 2018 - bellyband2
Verdict - Spring 2018 - cover1
Verdict - Spring 2018 - cover2
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 3
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 4
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 5
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 6
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 7
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 8
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 9
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 10
Verdict - Spring 2018 - President’s Message
Verdict - Spring 2018 - How I Obtained Justice: Sudden Emergency Doctrine
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 13
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 14
Verdict - Spring 2018 - Thank You to Outgoing Verdict Chairman, Madeleine Simmons
Verdict - Spring 2018 - Look Before You Leap: Conducting Jury Focus Groups Before Trial
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 17
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 18
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 19
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 20
Verdict - Spring 2018 - Voir Dire In Low Speed, Soft Tissue Injury Cases
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 22
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 23
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 24
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 25
Verdict - Spring 2018 - Defeating Reptile Theory Motions in Limine
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 27
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 28
Verdict - Spring 2018 - Leading the Jury Down the Right Path: Framing Your Case During Voir Dire
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 30
Verdict - Spring 2018 - Hernandez v. State: Empowering Jurors to Seek the Truth
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 32
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 33
Verdict - Spring 2018 - Exploding Takata Airbags From Cover-Up To Accountability
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 35
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 36
Verdict - Spring 2018 - Using Simple Technology to Pick a Better Jury
Verdict - Spring 2018 - Case Updates: Who Really Loses When Medical Funding Becomes an Issue at Trial?
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 39
Verdict - Spring 2018 - Professional Practice Pointers: Voir Dire, An interview with Cobb County State Court Judge Allison Barnes Salter
Verdict - Spring 2018 - Dig In To Do Good: Making the World a Better Place
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 42
Verdict - Spring 2018 - Champion Members
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 44
Verdict - Spring 2018 - Meet The Experts
Verdict - Spring 2018 - Index to Advertisers/Advertiser.com
Verdict - Spring 2018 - cover3
Verdict - Spring 2018 - cover4
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