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May 1, 2015

Motley Rice files first wrongful death federal action involving crash outside the U.S. against Takata, Honda

Motley Rice LLC, one of the nation’s largest plaintiffs’ firms, has filed a new product liability action in MDL No. 2559, In re Takata Airbag Products Liability Litigation, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida (Miami) against Takata and Honda for Law Suk Leh, a Malaysian woman, and her unborn baby, Elsa Mia Law Caido, who were killed by the violent explosion of and metal shrapnel expelled from a Takata airbag in a car that had not been recalled. This suit is believed to be the first wrongful death federal action filed in the United States on behalf of a victim of a crash that occurred outside the U.S.

Law Suk Leh was 42-years-old and nearly nine months pregnant at the time of the crash that happened on July 27, 2014, in Sibu, Sarawak, East Malaysia while driving her 2003 Honda City Car. Upon impact, metal shrapnel flew out of the airbag and caused a severe puncture wound in her neck leading to Law’s death. Her baby, Elsa Mia Law Caido, was delivered, but passed away days later.

A Honda spokesman stated, “The cause of death for this incident is rupture of the inflator.” Law’s car, however, was not recalled at the time of the crash.

“I believe this heart-wrenching story is unfortunately just one example of the global problem we have with defective Takata airbags,” said Kevin Dean, Motley Rice catastrophic personal injury attorney who is representing several wrongful death and personal injury cases related to the Takata airbags. “Families have been destroyed and now they are left to cope as best as they can. I can only hope Takata will reevaluate the recalls and expand them quickly and as widely as necessary to save lives and prevent injuries.”

The suit claims that the injuries sustained by Law would not have occurred under a normal, safe and expected airbag deployment in the collision, and that the defects in the vehicle consequently caused her death and led to the emergency delivery and later death of her daughter. The suit also alleges that Law’s airbag system was unreasonably dangerous and defective because it was designed, manufactured and sold with an excessively aggressive inflator in the passenger’s frontal airbag system.

An estimated 18 million vehicles have been recalled in the U.S., with Honda vehicles currently comprising the bulk of potentially-affected vehicles, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is calling for more. At a Nov. 20, 2014, Senate hearing, Takata executives admitted that the company still uses ammonium nitrate as a propellant in its airbag inflators. This propellant is highly sensitive to temperature changes and moisture, and can break down over time. It is also less expensive than safer alternatives. 

It has been reported that Takata knew as early as 2004 that the airbags were dangerous, long before recalls began in 2014.  

Law’s car was manufactured in Thailand, but the Takata airbag inflator in the car was assembled in 2002 in LaGrange, Georgia, and soon shipped overseas.

General negligence, gross negligence, reckless conduct and breach of warranty are the allegations against defendants Takata Corporation; TK Holdings, Inc.; Inflation Systems Inc.; Honda Motor Co.; Ltd., Honda R & D Co.; Ltd.; American Honda Motor Co., Inc.; and Honda of America Mfg., Inc. regarding Takata’s airbags. The complaint also alleges that the design and testing, all the way through distribution and sale, of Takata airbag systems resulted in a defective and unreasonably dangerous automobile and automobile airbag system that was unable to reasonably protect the driver in the case of an accident.

The case is Law Ngee Chiong v. Takata Corporation et al. Read the full complaint.

In April 2015, Motley Rice filed a personal injury federal action on behalf of Louisiana resident Sabra Wilson who alleges serious injuries by the Takata airbag in the passenger’s side of her 2006 Nissan Sentra. Nissan has since announced an intention to add the 2006 Nissan Sentra to the airbag recall. The case is Sabra M. Wilson and William R. Wilson v. Takata Corporation et al. Read the full complaint.

Also in April 2015, two personal injury suits were filed, one for a Georgia man who suffered severe injuries to his neck allegedly caused by metal shrapnel from his Takata airbag in a March 2015 crash. His three young children were in the car with him at the time of the crash. Another suit was filed on behalf of a Georgia woman who suffered serious injuries in an October 2014 crash in her 2001 Honda Accord.

In January 2015, Motley Rice filed the first personal injury federal action on behalf of a South Carolina woman, Angelina Sujata, who alleges she was injured by the Takata airbag in her recalled Honda Accord. Filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, Columbia Division, the case is Angelina C. Sujata v. Takata Corporation et al.

In November 2014, Motley Rice attorneys filed the first federal action on behalf of a South Carolina woman allegedly killed by the Takata airbag in her recalled Honda Accord. Read more about this action. Motley Rice attorneys also filed a class action lawsuit in South Carolina, Horton et al v. Takata et al., on Nov. 14, 2014, and similar class action lawsuits in Louisiana and Florida, on behalf of people who own vehicles that contain the recalled Takata airbags. Read more about this suit.

Learn more about Takata airbag lawsuits.