The ink had not yet dried on a judge's order fining airbag-maker Takata $1 billion for wire fraud when a class-action lawsuit was filed in Florida charging that Ford, Honda, Nissan, and Toyota had installed the defective airbags in cars for years while knowing they were dangerous.
“For over a decade, Takata lied to its customers about the safety and reliability of its ammonium nitrate-based airbag inflators,” said Acting Assistant U.S. Attorney General Blanco after a Detroit federal court judge imposed the fine Monday. “Takata abused the trust of both its customers and the public by allowing airbag inflators to be put in vehicles knowing that the inflators did not meet the required specifications."
The Florida lawsuit charges that it was not only Takata that knew of the hazards presented by the faulty airbag inflators. It alleged that automakers knew of the dangers but kept pressuring suppliers to keep costs down and continued using Takata airbags even though they knew they were prone to explode and spew deadly shrapnel into the passenger compartment.
At least eleven people have died in the U.S. and more than 100 have been injured by the airbags, and automakers have staged a massive recall of more than 70 million airbags in 42 million vehicles.
The Florida suit was filed by attorney Kevin Dean, who objected to the Takata plea deal and charged that documents filed with the court showed that automakers were not victims of a Takata cover-up but accomplices.
Judge George Caram Steeh approved the settlement anyway, saying that Dean's objections could be handled in a separate civil suit.
Honda strongly denied the allegations in the Florida suit, saying it "reasonably believed" they were safe.