Ford Motor Co. and other automakers being sued over the recall of faulty Takata Corp. air bags in millions of vehicles have asked the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to consolidate the class actions in the Western District of Pennsylvania. The automakers opposed the requests made several weeks prior by different sets of Plaintiffs to consolidate the suits in both California and Florida, saying that the other venues are inconvenient and that Pennsylvania has more favorable docket conditions. The automakers’ motion stated:
Given the broad geographic dispersion of the defendants, witnesses and relevant documents, Pittsburgh would be far more convenient than the destinations proposed by the competing groups of plaintiffs,” the motion stated. “In addition, the docket conditions in the Western District of Pennsylvania are very favorable — clearly superior to those in plaintiffs’ main candidates, the Southern District of Florida and the Central District of California.
The group of automakers, including American Honda Motor Co. Inc., BMW of North America LLC, Subaru of America Inc. and others, said in its motion that both of Takata’s U.S. subsidiaries have headquarters, testing and manufacturing facilities close to the Western District and that all the other U.S. defendants have headquarters or substantial facilities close by. In addition, they argued that Pittsburgh is centrally located and cost-effective and that the district enjoys favorable caseload conditions as well as the fewest pending cases or weighted filings compared with the other proposed venues.
The cases bring claims against Takata, its affiliated entities and dozens of auto manufacturers that installed and distributed to consumers defective air bags contained in their vehicles. More than 14 million vehicles with Takata air bags have been recalled worldwide because of a defect that causes the air bags to explode in humid conditions, with most of those recalls coming just in the past year. But it now appears that automakers knew of the defect as early as 2008, when Honda first notified regulators of a problem with its Takata air bags. Instead, the automakers and Takata elected to not address the issue, leading to multiple deaths and injuries stemming from the defect.
The manufacturing defect in the air bags dates back to at least April 2000, and Takata became aware of it as early as 2001, when it issued its first recall relating to the exploding air bags in Isuzu vehicles. But the defect wasn’t disclosed to federal regulators until 2008, despite incidents happening involving exploding air bags that put automakers and Takata on notice of a most serious problem. In November 2008, Honda finally informed NHTSA that it had a problem with some of the Takata air bags in its vehicles, but at the time only recalled 4,000 Accords and Civics.
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