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Family Seeks to Reopen Takata Air Bag Wrongful Death Lawsuit

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A family that previously settled claims with Takata wants to reopen their air bag lawsuit.

According to Bloomberg, the family settled a previous wrongful death lawsuit for $3 million, but because Takata didn’t disclose that they had manipulated test results before the settlement, they are seeking to reopen that case.

Indeed, in a recent New York Times article, documents recently unsealed as part of another Takata air bag lawsuit revealed that company employees manipulated test data to downplay any concerns about the safety of their air bags.

Mother of Three Dies in Takata Airbag Related Crash

The case centers on Gurjit Rathore, who died in December 2009 at the age of 33 in a car accident. She was driving her Honda Accord after a Christmas shopping trip when she was hit by a mail truck. The force of the impact caused her air bag to deploy, but instead of protecting her, it exploded, sending pieces of shrapnel into the interior of the vehicle. Some of the metal fragments lodged into her chest and neck, and as a result, she bled to death in front of her three children, according to her family’s lawsuit.

Rathore’s death was the first of at least ten now connected to Takata air bags. Her family filed a Takata air bag lawsuit against the company—naming Honda as a defendant, as well—in April 2011. The case proceeded for over two years, during which Takata produced documents that included test reports on the air bag inflators.

Though the case was eventually settled for $3 million, Rathore’s family’s lawyers now claim that the settlement was fraudulently reached because Takata failed to reveal the extent of their deception, particularly related to test results on the air bags. They claim that the test reports produced during the trial were altered and manipulated, and didn’t reveal the reality of the risks associated with the air bags.

Takata gave those same reports to Honda, who earlier this year claimed they would no longer use Takata to supply their air bags, because the company manipulated test data.

Takata to Phase Out Dangerous Air Bag Propellant

At issue in many of the Takata lawsuits is the chemical used in the air bag propellants. Called “ammonium nitrate,” it has a reputation for being unstable, particularly when exposed to high temperatures and high humidities. Takata switched to this chemical in 2001, despite concern from some of their own engineers.

Rathore’s Honda was a 2001 model, and had air bags fueled by ammonium nitrate. When the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) fined Takata $70 million in November 2015, they required the company to phase out their use of ammonium nitrate, unless Takata could prove that it was safe. The company will owe as much as $130 million in additional fines if it does not comply with all of the NHTSA’s requirements.

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  1. Tim Sears says:
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    I hope the Rathore gets more settlement money. It’s always big business and greed. That’s what Honda gets for doctoring test results!!!