The tragic death of a Houston-area teen driver underscores the public safety crisis associated with defective Takata airbags found in more than 20 million U.S. cars, trucks and SUVs. As these unnecessary deaths and injuries continue to mount, automakers and Takata must work harder and with great urgency to fix the dangerous airbags.
Authorities confirmed today that 17-year-old Huma Hanif was killed when the Takata airbag in her 2002 Honda Civic exploded, sending shards of metal in her neck. Hanif is the 10th fatality linked to defective Takata airbags, which are the subject of an unprecedented recall involving more than 24 million vehicles from more than a dozen manufacturers. The scale of the recall is so great that auto manufacturers are facing a backlog of parts to fix the units, leaving millions of motorists with no choice but to continue driving vehicles equipped with these dangerous airbags.
Farrar & Ball is actively representing individuals injured by defective airbags. The trial team has special expertise investigating these highly technical cases and aggressively pursuing product liability claims against the world’s largest automakers and parts suppliers.
Farrar & Ball has previously reported about a long series of misstatements and incomplete disclosures by Takata that led to congressional hearings and a record $70 million fine by the NHTSA. Takata initially blamed the problems on propellant chemicals inside the airbag unit, which it said were mishandled and improperly stored during assembly. Next, Takata blamed humid weather, and later suggested that rust and bad welds were also at fault. Takata documents show that one manufacturing facility in Mexico had a defect rate six to eight times above acceptable limits.
On Thursday, Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls underscored the seriousness of the air bag problem, advising that he, personally, would no longer drive cars under the recall. “I wouldn’t drive it, I wouldn’t drive,” he said at a news conference. “This is the tenth fatality resulting in a default airbag in this vehicle, so that’s really up to you.”
By all accounts, Hanif should have walked away from the minor wreck on FM 762 and Gonyo near Richmond on March 31. Witnesses said the teen was in a rear-end collision and collapsed after getting out of her car.
“It was a minor accident, fender-bender. She should have walked away from the accident. She should have walked away from it,” one witness told ABC13. “She had a deep laceration on the side of her throat. It looked like debris from the airbag.”
Even Honda has confirmed that a defective Takata airbag is to blame, finding that the inflator had ruptured becoming like a missile. Hanif, an aspiring nurse, is the second person in the Houston-area whose death has been linked to the faulty airbags. Last year, Carlos Solis, of Spring, was killed when his airbag deployed in another minor accident.
Published reports indicate that Takata engineers and executives were aware of the airbag defect dangers years before alerting authorities. The company reportedly conducted secret tests to verify the problem, but according to a New York Times investigation, Takata ordered its engineers to destroy the data and any physical evidence a full four years before the company publicly acknowledged any safety concerns.