Takata Engineers Discarded Evidence that Airbags Were Unsafe
For the last few years, as millions of vehicles with defective airbags have been recalled in the U.S., Japanese airbag manufacturer, Takata, has maintained that the propellant used in their airbags are safe. But, according to a report in The New York Times, court testimony during a Florida trial is showing that Takata’s own engineers discarded evidence as early as 2000, which showed that the propellant used in the airbag inflators, ammonium nitrate, could cause serious safety issues.
Takata altered its test data to hide the failures from its biggest customer, Honda, and a senior Takata executive also ordered some of the evidence to be discarded, according to testimony. Thomas Sheridan, a former Takata airbag engineer, was questioned this year as part of a lawsuit brought by a Florida woman who was paralyzed after a Takata airbag in her 2001 Honda Civic deployed forcefully during a June 2014 crash.
Failure to Report Safety Defects
Sheridan said during his deposition that he had tried to examine airbag parts that had failed a series of performance tests. But he said he had found the parts had been discarded under orders from the company vice president for engineering. The same senior executive was also tied to a series of airbag tests in 2004, which Takata test engineers said were also discarded. The senior executive still works for the company.
Takata never reported the failures to Honda. Instead it manipulated the data to hide results that showed the propellant could combust violently. The airbag ruptures send shrapnel into the vehicle compartment causing serious or even fatal injuries. So far, 10 deaths and more than 100 injuries have been linked to defective Takata airbag inflators. So far, 14 automakers have recalled about 24 million vehicles nationwide.
The Need for Accountability
This is, without question, unacceptable and despicable behavior on the part of Takata. This is a vehicle safety defect, which has killed and maimed people. Millions more are at risk for serious injuries because not all defective vehicles have been recalled and only a fraction of the faulty vehicles have actually been repaired. In November, federal regulators fined Takata $70 million for failing to promptly disclose airbag defects and accused the company of manipulating test data.
This is damning evidence, which in our opinion, would warrant criminal charges. It’s bad enough to manufacture faulty product. But it’s far worse to cover it up and stand by it, as people get killed and injured because of it. It is unscrupulous corporations like Takata that keep our auto defect lawyers motivated to do everything we can to get justice for those who have been injured and do our part in holding the automakers accountable.