Takata settles Florida air bag injury lawsuit
By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Lawyers for a Florida woman who was left a quadriplegic after a Takata air bag inflator deployed in a 2014 crash said Friday they had settled a lawsuit against the Japanese company.
The settlement was confirmed by Takata Corp. Under the agreement to settle the case, the terms were not disclosed.
It came the same day a Florida state court judge was to hear a request to require Takata’s chief executive, Shigehisa Takada, to submit to a civil deposition. As part of the settlement, the request was dropped.
Lawyers said Patricia Mincey, was severely injured after an air bag inflator forcefully deployed in her 2001 Honda Civic in a June 2014 crash. Four days after the crash, her vehicle was recalled. She died in April at age 77 after spending nearly two years in a hospital.
Takata air bag inflators have been linked to as many as 14 deaths worldwide, including 13 in Honda vehicles, because they can deploy with too much force, sending deadly metal fragments flying, the company and U.S. investigators say.
In Mincey’s crash, the air bag did not rupture but forcefully deployed, her lawyers said. The lawsuit accused Takata and Honda of concealing the “potential overpowered deployment from consumers for more than a decade.”
Honda settled with the Mincey family earlier this year.
The Mincey lawsuit turned up numerous disclosures about companies’ handling of defective air bags.
Theodore Leopold, a lawyer who represented the Mincey family, praised the settlement – and said the lawsuit had turned up significant issues about Takata air bag inflators.
Nearly 100 million Takata inflators have been declared unsafe worldwide. In May, automakers agreed to recall another 35 million to 40 million U.S. air bag inflators by 2019. Previously, 14 automakers had recalled 24 million U.S. vehicles.
Last month, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warned that Takata air bag inflators on more than 300,000 recalled but unrepaired Honda vehicles show a substantial risk of rupturing, and urged owners to stop driving the “unsafe” cars until they have been fixed.
The agency cited new test data that shows some 313,000 2001-2003 model Honda and Acura vehicles have as high as a 50 percent chance of a dangerous air bag inflator rupture in a crash – including the 2001 Honda Civic.
Takata has been the subject of a criminal investigation by the U.S. Justice Department since late 2014.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)