A proposed class action lawsuit filed in Miami federal court against makers of allegedly faulty Takata airbags, as well as numerous auto manufacturers, was recently stayed by a judge who also denied plaintiffs’ requests for immediate disclosure of evidence.
In Dunn v. Takata Corp., plaintiff attorneys requested “all documentation” related to the 14-million-vehicle recall possessed by both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Congress. One defense attorney equated this request to “a demand for the entire universe,” and the request was denied. All other matters pertaining to the case has been stayed until the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation can meet at the end of January 2015. Then they will decide in Miami which courts should take these cases.
Some include personal injury and wrongful death claims. Others – like the Dunn case – pertain solely to the economic losses incurred by vehicle owners whose car values have diminished as a result of being equipped with faulty airbags that purportedly can explode upon impact.
Our accident lawyers in West Palm Beach understand thus far, at least nine cases have been filed in U.S. courts for deaths or personal injuries resulting from the defective devices. Of the two death claims, one was a man in California who died last year, and the other was a Florida woman killed in October. There are three other reportedly related deaths wherein lawsuits have not yet been filed.
It’s highly probable the mounting number of personal injury and wrongful death claims will be combined with the economic loss cases during the evidence-gathering phase of the process.
Attorneys for the car manufacturers and Takata are pushing to have litigation heard in Pennsylvania, where all defendants are headquartered. However, attorneys for the injured and aggrieved say Miami is best, considering some 40 percent of the claims involve a Florida plaintiff.
Florida plaintiff attorneys further note this warm-weather state is disproportionately affected because the air bag inflators are specifically known to malfunction when exposed to high humidity – something of which Florida has no shortage.
In addition to Takata, other listed defendants include:
- Honda Motor Co.
- Ford Motor Co.
- Toyota Motor Corp.
- General Motors Co. (GM)
The airbags in question were installed between 2002 and 2008. There is evidence to suggest the company knew there was a problem years before the issue came to light publicly. Even as Congress has called on Takata to initiate its own recall, the company has resisted. The car manufacturers, however, have not only initiated recalls, they have in some cases (Honda) expanded them.
Even so, the regional approach to the recall has been heavily criticized. Where vehicles in Florida are included in the recall, those in Georgia are not. Representatives at a recent committee hearing questioned whether this was logical, given that a person in a Florida city just south of the Georgia border would be required to bring their vehicle in for a replacement, while someone living less than 20 minutes away, north of the Georgia border, would not.
Executives with Honda continue to resist a nationwide recall of the vehicles.
In spite of a growing body of evidence, Takata officials say there is no evidence to support a finding of a “nationwide defect” in the airbags. Of course, this assumes all vehicles or all persons are stationary. This is simply not the case, and we suspect the corresponding litigation will only continue to expand.
If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at (888) 751-7770 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.
Miami Judge Stalls Air Bag Litigation While Panel Considers Location, Dec. 9, 2014, By John Pacenti, Daily Business Review
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