A $741-million settlement resolving consumer class actions against BMW, Mazda, Subaru, and Toyota for dangerously defective Takata airbag the automakers used in their vehicles has been granted final approval.
U.S. District Court Judge Federico A. Moreno in Florida approved the settlements on Nov. 1. The four automakers are the first to exit sweeping multidistrict litigation (MDL) over consumer economic-loss claims stemming from Takata airbags, which prompted the largest auto safety recall in U.S. history.
The settlements were initially announced in May, with Toyota agreeing to pay $278.5 million. BMW of North America agreed to pay $131 million to resolve the class action, while Subaru of North America settled for $68.26 million and Mazda North American Operations agreed to pay $75.8 million.
Honda and Nissan have also reached settlement agreements since August. Those agreements are still pending final approval.
The settlements leave Ford the sole holdout remaining in the MDL. The automaker last month pushed the court to dismiss a group of new complaints added to the MDL.
A lawyer for plaintiffs in the case told Law 360 that in addition to compensating class members for economic losses, the settlements “will save lives.”
“We will continue to vigorously prosecute the cases against the remaining defendants to ensure that our class members receive the recovery they deserve,” he added.
Takata airbag explosions have been blamed for the deaths of 19 people worldwide, with 13 of those fatalities occurring in the U.S. More than 180 injuries linked to defective Takata airbags have been confirmed.
The airbag defects stem from Takata’s use of ammonium nitrate as the airbag propellant. The highly volatile chemical is prone to deploy airbags with lethal force, often blasting vehicle occupants with metal fragments. Ammonium nitrate is especially compromised by heat and high humidity, making recall repairs in in the U.S. South and other humid areas especially critical.
Faced with mounting lawsuits and massive recall expenses, Takata filed for bankruptcy in June. The company also pled guilty to wire fraud and agreed to pay the U.S. $1 billion in criminal penalties and restitution. The company also conceded that it used false reports and other misleading documents to rope automakers into buying its defective airbag systems.