Utah Woman Suffers Permanent Throat Injury, Loss of Speech in Accident Involving Takata Airbag

Motley Rice has filed a new product liability action in the District Court for Salt Lake County, Utah on behalf of Randi Johnston of Centerville, Utah. The suit alleges serious, permanent, life-scarring and post-crash personal injuries as a result of the alleged overly volatile explosion of the driver’s side Takata PSDI inflator from which Randi’s head and neck were pierced razor-like metal shrapnel, severing her trachea and causing severe damage to her vocal cords. Randi is currently unable to speak normally and her long-term prognosis is unknown.

On September 28, Randi, 25-years-old, was driving her 2003 Honda Civic EX on I-15 going to work when the crash occurred in North Salt Lake. “I noticed smoke coming into my car immediately after my crash. Adrenaline kicked in, so I unbuckled my seatbelt and started to get out of my car. Before I was able to do so, the driver of the car in front of me ran over and immediately applied pressure to my throat and leaned me forward. Later I would learn what had happened to me; that my throat had been lacerated and torn open by shrapnel from the airbag in my car, and my good Samaritan was a former Army medic. This metal fragment didn’t just cut me…it lodged itself so deeply into my throat that even the ER physicians who treated me at the hospital didn’t know it was there until my throat was x-rayed. The doctors told me later that if this thing had cut into my throat a few millimeters differently, left or right, it would have severed a major artery...I might not have even made it to the hospital. They had never seen an injury quite like it, and his actions likely saved my life that morning,” states Randi Johnston.

“I’m beyond thankful to be here today, despite the severe physical and emotional challenges that will face me for the rest of my life. However, the idea that people unknowingly continue to get into cars with these dangerous airbags every day sickens me. I hope my story will help to spread much-needed awareness that these recalls need everyone’s attention and work to get resolved nationwide so no one else suffers like I have," said Johnston. “I could have died on the side of the road that morning, surrounded by strangers and choking on my own blood. No one should have to experience that. If it weren’t for the injuries to my throat, I would have walked away from that accident. Instead I left in an ambulance, and spent several days in the ICU, on a respirator, half-conscious and terrified. And, I have physical scars to remind me of that day that I must look at every time I see my face in a mirror. I don't even know if I will ever be able to speak again! My life will never be the same.”

Purchased used in Utah, Randi only owned the car for about six months before the accident. Reports run on the vehicle indicate that the car was taken to Stockton 12 Honda dealer in Utah by a previous owner, hours before Randi took possession of it on March 28, for a routine inspection. However, during the routine inspection, Stockton 12 failed to perform internal notice directives for the airbag inflator and the airbag was not replaced.

The driver-side airbag in her car was recalled in December 2014 and the passenger-side airbag was recalled on Sept. 26, 2015. Randi has yet to receive any official notifications of these recalls.

“Takata and Honda are not working hard enough to track down the recalled cars, fix them or take them off the streets. They have had over a year to do so, and therefore it is completely unacceptable that just weeks ago shrapnel from Randi’s airbag cut her throat,” said Motley Rice attorney for Randi, Kevin Dean, and who represents several other wrongful death and personal injury clients related to the Takata airbags. “We continue to experience breakdowns in the communication of these recalls, especially to used car owners and dealers. Takata and Honda should be doing everything in their power to work with NHTSA, state governments and all parties to ensure no one else is harmed. This is a serious public safety issue that is still not being adequately addressed.”

Dean continued, “I believe Takata’s stance that high humidity areas should be replaced first is based on false facts. Used cars travel and are sold all around the country and could have been in high-humidity areas for years, as in Randi’s case. All vehicles included in the recall should be examined, regardless of their current location, to determine whether they have Takata airbags. Unfortunately, these recalled cars continued to be purchased every day and the new owners are unknowingly driving ticking time bombs.”

It has been reported that Takata knew as early as 2004 that the airbags were dangerous, long before recalls began in 2014. More than 30 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 used 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. In November 2015, NHTSA imposed a record civil penalty on Takata and required the company to stop manufacturing inflators with ammonium nitrate unless it can prove this propellant is safe.

The suit claims that the injuries sustained by Johnston 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 to suffer permanent, life-changing injuries. The suit also alleges that Randi’s airbag system was unreasonably dangerous and defective because it was designed, manufactured and sold with an excessively aggressive inflator in the frontal airbag system.

Motley Rice LLC is working with co-counsel Siegfried & Jensen of Salt Lake City and the Didier Law Firm on this case, Randi R. Johnston v. Takata Corporation, et al. Read the full complaint.

General negligence, gross negligence, reckless conduct and breach of warranty are the allegations against defendants Takata Corporation, TK Holdings Inc., Honda Motor Co., Ltd., Honda R & D Co., Ltd., American Honda Motor Co., Inc., Honda of America MFG., Inc. and Stockton #12 Automotive, Inc. D/B/A Stockton #12 Honda. 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.

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.