Takata Corp., the manufacturer of the prone-to-explode airbags that were linked to at least 18 deaths and 180 injuries worldwide, is continuing its attempts to slow, discourage, and deflect the lawsuits brought by those injured by the airbags. In January, Takata settled with the U.S. Department of Justice for $125 million to compensate consumers and $850 million in restitution for automakers. The company filed for bankruptcy in June, when it said it faced tens of billions of dollars in liabilities for its airbag inflators, which are subject to the biggest recall in automotive history, Reuters reported.
The bankruptcy deferred hundreds of lawsuits for wrongful death, injuries, economic loss and breach of consumer protection laws against Takata and TK Holdings Inc., Takata’s U.S. unit. In August, TK Holdings asked a federal judge for a preliminary injunction to suspend lawsuits brought against automakers whose vehicles contain the defective airbags. Also arguing for the delay were giant automakers BMW AG, Ford Motor Co., Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. The injunction would give TK Holdings some breathing space to work through its bankruptcy reorganization (Reuters).
Lawyers for plaintiffs told Reuters that the requested injunction is “an abuse of the bankruptcy laws for the benefit of all of the world’s largest automobile manufacturers.” The judge granted an injunction to suspend for 90 days the consideration of lawsuits brought by Hawaii, New Mexico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and individuals. Not included in the injunction are 48 federal cases across several districts that had already advanced.
Ninety days is a long time for plaintiffs like the young woman whose airbag explosion-inflicted brain damage made her a quadriplegic at age 23. Her attorneys estimated her economic loss, minus potential damages for pain and suffering, at $18 million. Another plaintiff, whose lawsuit alleges that defective sensors were the reason her husband and four children were killed and she was seriously injured in a car crash, objected to the attempt to defer her lawsuit against Honda Motor Co. Ltd. While not opposing the injunction, her attorneys argued that her lawsuit should be excluded from it because her claims don’t involve a ruptured Takata inflator.