A Connecticut man whose wife was allegedly killed by a defective Takata airbag that exploded inside a 2009 Toyota Corolla has filed a federal lawsuit against both the airbag manufacturer and the automaker.
Frederick McKeehan claims his wife was killed when the passenger-side Takata airbag inside their Corolla “exploded violently and with overly aggressive force” on Jan. 13, 2017, in New London County, Connecticut.
Mr. McKeehan’s lawsuit, which was filed in a Connecticut federal court, describes the accident as a “moderate speed crash.” Mr. McKeehan suffered only minor injuries in the accident.
According to the Connecticut Law Tribune, “The 37-page lawsuit … claims Takata knew its air bags were defective at least 13 years ago, but ignored the problem.”
“The lawsuit notes a 2004 incident in Alabama where a Takata air bag ‘exploded’ in a Honda Accord, shooting metal fragments that gravely injured the driver,” the Connecticut Law Tribune reported.
“Honda and Takata unilaterally deemed it an anomaly and did not issue a recall, adequately investigate it themselves, or seek the involvement of federal safety regulators,” the lawsuit asserts. “Instead, they brushed it under the rug and Takata kept making defective air bags.”
Mr. McKeehan claims the Takata airbag that allegedly killed his wife contained a defective inflator. He charges the defendants for product liability; gross negligence, willful and wanton conduct for design and manufacturing defects; failure to warn of the dangers of the air bags; fraud; unfair trade practices; wrongful death; and loss of consortium.
Mr. McKeehan filed his lawsuit in the wake of a $553 million settlement with four automakers: Toyota, Subaru, Mazda and BMW. Toyota received the lion’s share of the settlement, walking away with $278.5 million. Other automakers affected by the Takata airbag crisis have yet to settle with the airbag maker.
Takata’s recall covers about 70 million airbag units in vehicles made by 18 automakers. Globally, more than 100 million Takata inflators are under recall.
According to the NHTSA, “Activation of a non-desiccated ammonium nitrate inflator with degraded propellant may result in an inflator rupture. An inflator rupture may cause metal fragments to pass through the air bag and into the vehicle interior at high speed, which may result in injury or death to vehicle occupants.”
Takata airbag explosions have been officially linked to the deaths of 19 people worldwide, with 13 of those fatalities occurring in the U.S. More than 180 injuries linked to Takata airbag malfunctions have been confirmed.