A tragic death in July of last year involved a young driver in Pennsylvania. The Honda vehicle involved in the tragic event was under recall. From 2010 to 2012, Honda Motor Co. said it made multiple attempts to notify the owner of a 2001 Accord that the car’s airbag was faulty and needed replacing. The car had been sold to another person and the needed repairs hadn’t happened. The vehicle crashed and the Takata Corp. airbag shattered, fatally injuring the driver.
Reportedly, the day before the accident Honda had mailed the new owner yet another recall notice. The latest fatality linked to a Takata airbag – nine have occurred in the U.S. and one outside the country, with about 100 people injured – highlights a flawed recall system that all too often fails to lead to critical repairs and can take years to complete. Meanwhile, cars can be legally sold and registered without recall fixes having to be performed. Senators Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, and Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, said in a joint statement:
The identification of yet another preventable death – this time a young boy and well after when this safety defect was first made known – reiterates the urgent need for swift recall of all cars with these potentially defective airbags.
About 2 million vehicles with the defective airbags are being recalled each month. With almost three-quarters of the 19 million vehicles under the recall still unrepaired, the fixes could still take another seven months to complete. And that may be optimistic, based on the rate of repairs in previous recalls.
On average, only about 70 percent of vehicles covered under recalls are repaired, said Clarence Ditlow, Executive Director of the Center for Auto Safety, a Washington-based advocacy group. The rate for older vehicles such as those involved in the Takata recall is much lower, about 50 to 60 percent. Ditlow said:
Not every single owner shows up the first day to get it fixed. Some people will fit it in with their next trip for service or when they have time in their schedule. You have to get a sense of urgency in the consumer.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has expanded its recall to include additional models made by Subaru Co., Mazda Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co., and appointed an independent monitor to oversee Takata’s response, said spokesman Gordon Trowbridge. “This young person’s death is tragic and it underscores why we are continuing to work so hard to get these defective deflators off the road,” Trowbridge said. “Despite the unprecedented publicity surrounding these recalls, there are still vehicles under recall with parts available for repairs that have not been fixed.” Honda, in a statement, said it was investigating the crash in Pennsylvania and urged car owners to get their recalled vehicles repaired as soon as possible.
As we have previously reported, Takata reached a consent decree spanning five years with NHTSA on Nov. 3, agreeing to pay fines of $70 million, fire some employees and phase out the chemical explosive linked to the failures. If the company doesn’t meet its terms, it will be subject to additional fines of as much as $130 million, which would total the largest civil penalty in NHTSA’s history.
The consent decree included installing an independent monitor, to be paid for by Takata. John D. Buretta, a partner with the law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP and former principal deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice Criminal Division, has been selected for the job, Trowbridge said. Burretta previously served as the chief of the organized crime and racketeering section of the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York, and on its national security unit.
During his 10 years he was with the Department of Justice, Buretta held a number of roles, including chief of staff and director of the agency’s Deepwater Horizon Task Force. As you know, the Task Force handled the BP 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Ditlow said: “The independent monitor has a steep uphill climb to figure this out. People are dying.”
The pace of the Takata recall is completely unacceptable and a massive disappointment. Automakers dragged their feet and didn’t report the extent of the risks. NHTSA also moved too slowly after it began receiving reports. But Trowbridge said that NHTSA has taken steps to speed up the recall, such as including deadlines for action in its consent order with the company. For example, he said manufacturers in states with high humidity, which has been linked to the airbag failures, must have enough parts on hand by March to complete all repairs. Trowbridge added:
We’ve got kind of a mess on our hands here and everybody acknowledges this. This is not going to get done fast enough to satisfy us or, frankly, we think the manufacturers that are involved.
Ditlow said that law changes that would make recall completion rates higher have consistently been fought by the industry. A measure contained in transportation legislation earlier this year would have required used car dealers to perform all outstanding recalls before selling vehicles. It was taken out of the bill before it passed.
NHTSA also could push suppliers harder to make replacement parts available, Ditlow said. Some auto manufacturers have told customers they won’t be able to repair airbags on certain vehicles until the middle of 2016, Ditlow said. “Are parts available for every single Takata recall? The answer to that clearly is no,” he said. Motorists can check to see if their vehicles are on the recall list at a NHTSA-run website, safercar.gov. Repairs under the recall are free.
Source: Insurance Journal
Contact us today for a free legal consultation with an experienced attorney.
Fields marked *may be required for submission.
If you would like to subscribe to the Jere Beasley Report digital edition, simply visit our Subscriptions page and provide the necessary information or call us at 800-898-2034.
Attorney Advertising - Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.