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Medical Examiner’s Report Concludes Victim Died of Air Bag Shrapnel

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On November 17, 2014, the family of Hien Tran, a 51-year-old woman who was killed in a car accident on September 29, 2014, filed a new lawsuit against Takata—the maker of the airbag that allegedly caused Tran’s death—and Honda, the maker of the car she was driving.

The case was filed in Orange County, Florida, according to a report in Reuters. It is one of many pending against these defendants because of faulty airbags.

Victim of Airbag Defect Suffers Stab-Like Wounds
When police first arrived on the scene of Tran’s accident, they thought she had been the victim of a vicious attack. She had “penetrating injuries,” according to the Chicago Tribune, that resembled stabbing wounds and were not consistent with typical car accidents. Her windows were not broken, and she was still wearing her seatbelt.

So convinced were the law enforcement officers that they actually identified a “person of interest” in the case. But then, according to the Orlando Sentinel, homicide detectives concluded that “pieces of metal or plastic sprayed by an exploding airbag caused her death.”

On November 18th, 2014, the Orange-Osceola Medical Examiner’s office released a report noting that shrapnel was the cause of Tran’s death, along with blunt force injuries to the head and neck. Dr. Joshua Stephany, who works at the examiner’s office, stated that he was of the opinion that Tran’s injuries were caused by the explosion of the airbag. The autopsy report noted there were plastic and metal fragments throughout the driver compartment of the vehicle, as well as blood on the air bag and multiple tears in it.

Victim Did Not Receive Recall Notice Until After She Died

Tran was driving a 2000 Honda Accord sedan at the time of the accident. According to the New York Daily News, she was headed home from her family’s nail salon at the time of the accident. Her death was the fourth of five connected to Takata airbag defects.

Her family claims in their lawsuit that Honda and Takata failed to provide adequate warnings about the risks, and were aware of the airbag problems long before Tran’s accident occurred. They also claim that Honda sent a message to its dealers about a week before Tran’s accident urging them not to be too proactive in contacting customers about vehicle recalls because they were short on replacement parts and behind on repairs.

The family claims that Tran never received a recall notice for her vehicle until after she died.

Millions of Vehicles Recalled

The most recent count puts the total amount of vehicles recalled worldwide because of Takata airbag problems at 16 million. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently ordered an industry-wide recall of all vehicles with driver’s-side Takata airbags, expanding the previous regional recalls that Takata was supporting.