In New York, on April 11, 2017, a crowd gathered to witness the grand unveiling of the latest Car Buick Enclave Avenir. The excitement surrounding the event was palpable, as attendees marveled at the cutting-edge design and advanced features of the vehicle. However, amidst the glitz and glamour, a shadow of concern loomed over the automotive industry.
Recently released documents reveal that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has demanded the recall of a staggering 67 million airbag inflators. This demand comes as a result of the agency’s belief that these inflators possess a serious safety defect. However, ARC Automotive Inc, an auto supplier based in Tennessee, has rejected the request from the U.S. regulator.
According to the auto safety agency, these airbag inflators present an unreasonable risk of death or injury to vehicle occupants. The primary concern lies in the potential for these inflators to project dangerous metal fragments toward passengers instead of inflating the airbags as intended. This inherent risk has led NHTSA to urge ARC Automotive Inc to take action.
ARC air bag inflators are found in a wide range of vehicles, including those manufactured by General Motors, Chrysler-parent Stellantis, BMW, Hyundai Motor, and Kia. In light of a recent incident where a driver sustained facial injuries due to a rupture, General Motors has agreed to recall nearly 1 million vehicles equipped with ARC air bag inflators.
In response to NHTSA’s tentative conclusion that a defect exists, ARC Automotive Inc disputes the claim, citing only seven field ruptures in the United States as the basis. ARC argues that the agency is asking them to disprove a negative by demonstrating that the 67 million inflators produced over 18 years are not defective. Despite this disagreement, ARC has expressed its commitment to collaborate with NHTSA and automakers in evaluating these ruptures.
NHTSA began investigating more than 8 million air bag inflators produced by ARC in 2016 following a fatal accident in Canada involving a Hyundai vehicle. Since then, the agency has been conducting a thorough examination spanning over seven years. It initially launched the investigation in July 2015, prompted by two reported injuries.
Under a licensing agreement with ARC, Delphi (now owned by Autoliv) manufactured approximately 11 million of the inflators, while ARC produced the remainder. In defense of its products, ARC highlights the extensive testing programs conducted on inflators collected from scrapped and other vehicles. Remarkably, not a single rupture occurred during these tests, casting doubt on the validity of NHTSA’s claims.
Notably, the 67 million inflators were produced across multiple production lines and various plants, exclusively for the U.S. market. They were subsequently employed by 12 different vehicle manufacturers, featuring in numerous models. ARC emphasizes that none of these manufacturers have concluded the existence of a systemic defect across this wide-ranging population of inflators.
NHTSA reports that ARC implemented detection devices on its inflator manufacturing lines in January 2018. These devices were designed to identify excessive weld slag or other debris that could potentially cause defects. Since the implementation, NHTSA claims to be unaware of any issues with ARC inflators produced during this period. However, ARC disputes whether weld slag can be definitively identified as the root cause behind the ruptures.
Over the past 15 years, NHTSA has been meticulously scrutinizing incidents of airbag inflator ruptures. This comprehensive analysis forms part of their ongoing commitment to ensuring the safety of vehicle occupants. Unfortunately, the gravity of the situation becomes more apparent when considering the massive Takata airbag inflator recall that has taken place. In the past decade alone, over 67 million Takata airbag inflators have been recalled in the United States, and the global recall number surpasses 100 million units, making it the largest auto safety callback in history. This alarming statistic is a testament to the seriousness of the issue at hand.
Tragically, more than 30 deaths worldwide, including 24 in the United States, have been attributed to Takata airbag inflators since 2009. Additionally, hundreds of injuries have been reported, further highlighting the severity of the problem. These incidents span across various automakers’ vehicles and underscore the urgent need for action.
The most recent fatality occurred in July 2022, involving a 2010 Chrysler 300, marking one of three Stellantis deaths within a seven-month period. The continued occurrence of such incidents is deeply concerning and underscores the critical importance of addressing the underlying safety defects in airbag inflators.
How Product Liability Lawsuits Make Consumers Safer
Product liability lawsuits have played a significant role in seeking justice and compensation for victims affected by faulty airbag inflators. These lawsuits generally involve holding manufacturers, suppliers, and other entities accountable for their role in producing and distributing defective products. They aim to secure financial compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, and other economic and non-economic damages suffered by victims and their families.
In product liability lawsuits related to airbag inflators, plaintiffs typically argue that the manufacturers and suppliers had a duty to produce safe and reliable products. They contend that the defendants breached this duty by designing, manufacturing, or distributing defective inflators that posed an unreasonable risk of harm to consumers.
To succeed in a product liability claim, plaintiffs must typically prove several key elements. First, they must establish that a defect existed in the airbag inflator. This can be done by presenting evidence of design flaws, manufacturing errors, or inadequate warnings or instructions. Second, plaintiffs must demonstrate that the defect caused their injuries or losses. This may involve expert testimony, medical records, and other supporting evidence.
Moreover, plaintiffs must show that they were using the product as intended or in a reasonably foreseeable manner when the injury occurred. They may also need to establish that the defendants failed to provide adequate warnings or instructions regarding the potential risks associated with the product. Lastly, plaintiffs must comply with the applicable statute of limitations, which sets a time limit for filing a lawsuit after the injury or discovery of the defect.
What Forms of Compensation Could a Victim of a Dangerous Product Receive in a Product Liability Lawsuit?
Successful product liability lawsuits can result in various forms of compensation, including economic damages (such as medical expenses, lost wages, and future care costs), non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life), and in some cases, punitive damages designed to punish the defendants for their negligence or intentional misconduct.
It is crucial to note that each product liability case is unique, and the outcome will depend on the specific facts and circumstances of the situation. Legal proceedings can be complex, involving extensive investigation, expert testimony, and negotiations with multiple parties involved in the supply chain. Therefore, it is essential for individuals affected by defective airbag inflators to seek legal representation from experienced product liability attorneys who can guide them through the legal process and advocate for their rights.
The demand for the recall of 67 million airbag inflators underscores the critical nature of product liability issues in the automotive industry. The alarming number of incidents and injuries linked to defective airbag inflators necessitates strong measures to protect consumers and hold responsible parties accountable. Through product liability lawsuits, victims can seek justice, compensation, and the reassurance that steps are being taken to prevent such tragedies from occurring in the future.
CONTACT PARKER WAICHMAN LLP TODAY FOR A FREE CONSULTATION
Be sure to get the legal help you need for your airbag injury case. Contact Parker Waichman, LLP today by calling their toll-free number 1-800-YOUR-LAWYER (1-800-968-7529). Their experienced airbag injury and wrongful death attorneys are standing by to provide a free case evaluation and help you take the first steps toward obtaining the justice and compensation you deserve.
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