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Employees Say Takata Secretly Tested Deadly Airbags, Covered Up Results

AIRBAGOver 14 million vehicles have been recalled due to dangerous defects in airbags. The airbags, made by Japanese manufacturer Takata, have been known to be faulty since 2008 when the first recalls began. But now Takata employees claim the company carried out secret tests much earlier than that, and knew the airbags were dangerous since 2004—but did nothing.

The problem with the Takata airbags is that when they deploy, there is a chance they will spew metal shrapnel into the car, injuring or even killing the people they are meant to save. That’s because the inflater—the part that rapidly inflates the airbag with compressed propellant—can eject into the car by mistake, ripping through the airbag and even exploding into pieces of sharp metal.

The defect has been confirmed in testing and is attributed to a matrix of Takata production issues:

  • Propellant for the airbags was exposed to moisture during manufacturing, affecting quality
  • Propellant pellets were made too strong, with “aggressive ballistics,” as late as 2009
  • Sensitive inflater units for airbags were dropped, mishandled and potentially damaged during shipping
  • Takata refused to take back potentially damaged inflaters and insisted that suppliers ship them anyway

Despite these ominous production problems, up to now it was believed that Takata took action to recall the airbags as soon as tests confirmed the flaw. But a small group of current and former Takata employees, who remain nameless, say that isn’t the case.

Instead, they report that Takata began secret tests of its airbags in 2004 after the first reports of shrapnel. They took 50 of their own airbags from junkyards and ran a variety of tests on them, discovering that two of the airbag inflaters exploded during testing.

Engineers working on the tests supposedly began immediate plans for a repair, expecting a recall based on the test results. Instead, the informants say that Takata ordered them to delete the test data, throw out the replacement prototypes, and scrap the tested airbags.

If true, the company prolonged the safety risk for four years. The faulty airbags have been implicated in 139 injuries and four deaths. An unknown number of these tragedies could have been prevented had a recall come earlier.

At Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, we are dedicated to fighting for people injured by corporate negligence. We understand that sometimes a company will produce a safety device that is flawed, and that this isn’t necessarily criminal if the device is recalled right away. But when a company drags its feet on a recall that could save lives—or worse yet, covers up the evidence and avoids a recall altogether—we feel a sense of outrage and we believe that company must be held accountable.

If you or a loved one has been injured by an airbag, don’t surrender your rights. The law says you are owed compensation for your injuries. Call Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox today and get your free consultation.

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Stephen Levine, is a Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Defense — an honor achieved by only the top criminal law attorneys in California. Mr. Levine has over 40 years of experience in criminal defense and family law serving Southern California, and is a highly regarded Super Lawyer as well as AV Rated attorney.