Takata Airbag Recalls Seemingly Insufficient; Suit Filed Alleging Serious Injuries By Exploding Airbag In Unrecalled Nissan

Motley Rice files new personal injury federal action against Takata, Nissan; calls for expanded recalls 

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 Nissan for a woman alleging injuries by the violent explosion of a passenger-side airbag in a vehicle that has not been recalled.

The action alleges serious, permanent, life-scarring and post-crash personal injuries related to a Takata passenger-side airbag. It is also believed to be the first personal injury federal action involving shrapnel for a Nissan vehicle that has not been recalled to date: a 2006 Nissan Sentra.

Sabra Wilson, a 20-year-old Montz, Louisiana, resident, alleges she now suffers hearing impairment in her right ear as a result of a March 21, 2015, minor accident that occurred while driving her 2006 Nissan Sentra with no other passengers, as well as other injuries from the explosion and flying shrapnel. There are no open recalls for this vehicle on the Nissan or NHTSA websites. However, during the accident both the driver (oddly, manufactured by competitor, Autoliv, Inc.) and the Takata passenger-side airbags deployed, with the passenger-side airbag violently exploding, allegedly throwing large chunks of hot, sharp metal shrapnel that inflicted lacerations, burns and cuts on Sabra’s face, hands and upper torso, including permanent scarring. Sabra alleges that the explosion was so loud and violent that it caused hearing impairment for which she is undergoing medical treatment. Sabra now lives with these life-altering injuries and the trauma of the crash.

It wasn’t until this crash and further investigation by Motley Rice that Sabra learned her passenger-side airbag was a Takata airbag that ruptured, and that the driver’s side bag was made by competitor Autoliv, Inc., which did not rupture.

“It’s terrifying to find out that I was essentially driving around with what appears to have been the equivalent of a stick of dynamite in my passenger-side airbag all this time,” said Sabra. “I was not aware that other Nissan Sentras just like mine were recalled months ago and do not understand why Nissan did not notify me and my father of the alleged problems. I hope this doesn’t happen to anyone else and that all of these automakers go back to the drawing board to quickly recall every potentially dangerous vehicle that has a Takata airbag.”

The suit claims that the injuries sustained by Sabra would not have occurred under a normal, safe and expected airbag deployment in the collision, and that the defects in the vehicle consequently caused serious injuries sustained in the crash. The suit also alleges that Sabra’s passenger frontal 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. The realized risk of a passenger-side airbag deployment involving allegedly dangerously excessive, explosive force and expelled shrapnel made Sabra’s vehicle and potentially all similarly situated vehicles seemingly unfit for their ordinary purpose of providing safe transportation.

“I believe the recalls are clearly not working and that someone is not telling the truth about the scope and volume of the vehicles involved. Sabra’s injuries should compel Takata and the automakers to investigate every vehicle on the road and determine whether or not they are safe or if they have a ticking time bomb airbag,” said Kevin Dean, Motley Rice catastrophic personal injury attorney. “Unfortunately, drivers and passengers seem to still be at risk because of an apparent lack of communication among the involved companies and dedication to fully investigate and resolve the issues at hand.”

In fact, a recall was issued on Nov. 4, 2014, recalling certain model year 2004-2006 Nissan Sentras “originally sold or . . . registered, in geographic locations associated with high absolute humidity,” including Louisiana, but the manufacturing date range was limited, by Nissan, only to those cars produced between April 1, 2003, and Dec. 23, 2005. Sabra’s vehicle was originally sold and registered in Louisiana, a “geographic location associated with high absolute humidity.” Plaintiffs believe that thousands of additional Nissan Sentras and other Nissan makes and models were equipped with defective inflators through approximately August 2006, none of which have been recalled to date, and that thousands of consumers remain at risk. 

An estimated 18 million vehicles have been recalled in the United States, with Honda vehicles currently comprising the bulk of potentially affected vehicles, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 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. 

Reports state that Takata knew as early as 2004 that the airbags were dangerous, long before recalls began in 2014.  

General negligence, gross negligence, reckless conduct and breach of warranty are the allegations against defendants Takata Corporation; TK Holdings, Inc.; Nissan North America, Inc.; and Nissan Motor Company, Ltd. regarding Takata’s airbags. The complaints also allege 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 Sabra M. Wilson and William R. Wilson v. Takata Corporation et al. Read the full complaint.

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.