Louisiana residents may be aware that the Japanese auto parts maker Takata filed for bankruptcy in 2017 following a scandal connected to faulty airbags. Millions of vehicles were recalled when it was learned that the inflators used by Takata were causing airbags to deploy without warning and with tragic results. Dozens of accidents, hundreds of injuries and 17 deaths in the United States alone have been linked to the problem.
Seat belt issues
It was recently revealed that seat belt webbing manufactured by Takata may also be defective. A Chinese company made the discovery when its researchers analyzed testing data that appears to have been manipulated to cover dangerous flaws. The company is now scrutinizing records going back 20 years to ascertain the extent of the issue. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said that it is monitoring these efforts. If a serious problem is uncovered, it could affect almost a third of the vehicles currently on the road.
Takata has a history of putting profits over public safety. U.S. attorneys filed criminal charges against three of the now defunct company’s executives when it was learned that they had tried to cover up the airbag safety issue. Takata was also fined $1 billion by U.S. regulators and faced a wave of product liability lawsuits.
Punitive damages in defective product cases
Injured consumers generally seek compensatory damages to cover their medical expenses, lost income and pain and suffering when they sue the manufacturers of defective and dangerous products, but personal injury attorneys with experience in this area could also ask the jury to award punitive damages when evidence suggests that efforts were made to conceal defects. These are damages that are awarded to punish gross negligence and deter other companies from engaging in the same kind of behavior.