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Judge Grants Takata’s Request for Airbag Lawsuit Delay

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The Takata Corporation wants hundreds of airbag lawsuits delayed in court. They filed for bankruptcy back in June 2017, when their debts totaled about $9 billion. At the time, they said the reason for the filing was to preserve jobs and ensure that the company’s business partners would continue to have access to replacement parts for defective Takata airbags.

About the same time, the company also asked a federal bankruptcy judge to suspend airbag lawsuits for about six months. Together with several automakers, Takata faces hundreds of lawsuits filed by plaintiffs who were allegedly either injured by the airbags, had loved ones people who were killed by the airbags, or believed they suffered economic losses because of massive airbag recalls.

Though bankruptcy automatically delayed hundreds of lawsuits, Takata again sought a preliminary injunction to suspend lawsuits against automakers that used its inflators in July 2017. Recently, a U.S. judge granted the request.

Plaintiffs Say Takata Seeks Benefits for Automakers Rather Than Consumers

According to a report in Reuters, Takata is trying to pause lawsuits against them and automakers to avoid “distractions” that could affect the supply of airbag inflator replacements or the completion of the sale of the company to Key Safety Systems. They have added that they are focused on restructuring, and are hoping for a “quick and successful emergence” from bankruptcy.

Plaintiffs, on the other hand, claim the company is abusing bankruptcy laws to the benefit of large automakers, and that if the request is granted, it would delay plaintiffs’ lawsuits for six months or more.

Judge Grants Takata’s Request to Halt Airbag Lawsuits

Japan Today reported on August 17, 2017, that Delaware bankruptcy judge Brendan Shannon had granted Takata’s request, temporarily halting the “prosecution of lawsuits filed by Hawaii, New Mexico and the U.S. Virgin Islands” over the defective airbag inflators. The judge ordered a stay of 90 days, half of the time that Takata had asked for, stating that Takata had proven the halt was warranted.

The judge also granted the company’s request to pause individual lawsuits against automakers for 90 days. He noted that the company is engaged “in the largest recall in history while simultaneously trying to implement a reorganization strategy around the globe,” and added that a failed reorganization could impair the current airbag recalls.

The consolidated litigation that is proceeding in Florida, however, is currently continuing on schedule.

Millions of High-Risk Inflators Still Not Replaced

Takata stated that the bankruptcy would not delay airbag repairs, but according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly 10 million of the inflators considered of highest risk have still not been replaced. High-risk airbags are those that “live” in vehicles in hot and humid environments such as those that exist in Florida and Hawaii.