On July 15, 2016, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC led by Attorney and Partner Theodore J. Leopold, resolved a closely watched lawsuit against the Japanese company and airbag maker, Takata, involving the injury and eventual death of a woman whose car was involved in a minor accident in 2014.The resolution was announced moments before a critical hearing in which a judge in Jacksonville, Fla., could have considered allowing punitive damages and for the company’s chief executive, Shigehisa Takada, to submit a civil deposition.

Case Background

Patricia Mincey, a Florida woman, was catastrophically injured and rendered paralyzed from the neck down when a Takata airbag inflator forcefully exploded in her 2001 Honda Civic in a minor motor vehicle collision in June 2014. Less than a week later, the airbag in her vehicle was among those recalled by Honda. Ms. Mincey alleged in her lawsuit, filed the following year, that the Takata Corporation had knowingly designed and manufactured airbags that were defective and dangerous. Sadly her condition continued to deteriorate and she passed away in April 2016 at age 77 after spending nearly two years in a hospital unable to move and hooked up to a ventilator.

Takata airbag inflators have been linked to as many as 14 deaths worldwide, including 13 Honda vehicles, because they can deploy with too much force, causing the inflator to explode and sending deadly metal fragments flying towards the driver or passengers. Ruptures also have resulted in more than 100 serious injuries, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Despite this, Takata executives allegedly concealed the full extent of the defect from consumers and implemented a strategy to quickly settle claims and lawsuits in which airbags were blamed for deaths and injuries, rather than fully inform the public of the airbag defect. Initially Takata had resisted settling Mincey’s case.

The January 2015 complaint filed by attorneys at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll on behalf of Patricia Mincey and her daughter, Kelly Sims, alleged that in Mincey’s collision, the airbag didn’t rupture but forcefully deployed, breaking her neck. According to the lawsuit Takata concealed the defective nature of their airbag systems–including potential overpowered deployment–from consumers for more than a decade prior to the Patricia Mincey’s accident. Furthermore, the lawsuit charged that Takata violated the law by failing to report, under reporting, or omitting important report information regarding the defect to the NHTSA.

“Product liability cases like this one often unveil a pattern of defrauding consumers in order to protect manufacturer profits,” said Theodore Leopold of Cohen Milstein. “Sadly, a massive human cost, such as that sustained by Patricia Mincey and her family, is often paid before a recall is issued. The only way to hold automotive companies accountable is through aggressive litigation.”

Although the lawsuit was resolved, it has direct bearing on a separate class action suit and other potential complaints against Takata Corporation. For one, the Mincey lawsuit turned up numerous disclosures about the company’s handling of defective airbags. In the course of months of pretrial hearings, Takata was forced to hand over thousands of pages of internal documents that pointed to the faking of test results by its engineers. About a dozen Takata officials were deposed. Click here to learn more.

Through the course of this and other litigation, Leopold said the opportunity to learn more about the airbag issue has been revealed to consumers, government and automakers. The work done on this lawsuit will “lift the veil” of some unknown issues, even though they did not get Takata’s CEO to testify on the stand.  The Mincey lawsuit is separate from a class action lawsuit that is currently pending against the Takata Corporation brought by owners of affected cars and is the subject of a criminal investigation by the Justice Department. It is unknown how many other similar lawsuits are currently pending against Takata.

Takata still faces one of the largest recalls in history. Nearly 100 million Takata inflators have been declared unsafe worldwide. The mass recalls of Takata airbags gained new urgency in May 2016, when federal safety regulators warned the public that airbags in more than 300,000 older Honda and Acura vehicles were at an unacceptably high risk of exploding and needed to be replaced immediately. Fourteen carmakers were affected, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration expanded the recall to include an additional 35 to 40 million U.S. airbag inflators by 2019.

Details of the resolution won’t be released but that doesn’t mean that other litigations cannot go forward. Please contact us at 561-515-1400 if you have any questions.

Complaint - January 21, 2015

Related News

A Cheaper Airbag, and Takata’s Road to a Deadly Crisis
The New York Times
August 26, 2016

Honda Audit Finds Takata Engineers Manipulated Air-Bag Test Data
Bloomberg
July 18, 2016

Takata settles Florida airbag injury lawsuit
Reuters 
July 15, 2016 
Also seen in: Automotive News, MSN News, WSAU-FM

Takata settles Florida airbag case, averting possible CEO deposition
My Palm Beach Post 
Charles Elmore 
July 15, 2016

Breaking: Takata settles Florida airbag case, attorney says
PalmBeachPost.com
July 15, 2016

Sides reach surprise settlement in airbag death suit; Takata head avoids taking witness stand
Florida Times-Union
July 15, 2016 
Also seen in: WTSP-TV 

Takata settles case of woman who died 2 years after crash
CNNMoney
July 15, 2016

Settlement Reached With Air Bag Maker in Florida Case
Associated Press
July 15, 2016

Takata settles lawsuit over Jacksonville woman's death: Family among five to sue Takata over deaths caused by air bags
WJXT-TV
July 15, 2016
Also seen in: WTVM-TV, WHNS-TV, WALB-TV, KLTV-TV, KPTV-TV, KMOV-TV, WALA-TV, WGGB-TV, KFDA-TV, KPLC-TV, KCBD-TV, WKLX-TV, WAFB-TV, WTOC-TV, WGCL-TV, WSMV-TV, WBRC-TV, WFSB-TV, Telemundo Amarillo, KHNL-TV, KTVK-TV, WCSC-TV,  WDAM-TV, WKMG-TV

Sixty Million Car Bombs: Inside Takata’s Air Bag Crisis
Bloomberg
June 2, 2016

Honda says 2 more deaths in Malaysia linked to Takata airbags
Automotive News
May 5, 2016

U.S. Department of Transportation expands and accelerates Takata air bag inflator recall to protect American drivers and passengers
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
May 4, 2016

Volkswagen, Audi to recall 2,617 cars
The Korea Times
April 26, 2016

As Takata Costs Soar in Airbag Recall, Files Show Early Worries on Financial Toll
New York Times
April 13, 2016

Driver In Takata Air Bag Suit Dies As Case Heads To Trial
Law360
April 13, 2016

Airbag victim dies in Florida case as death tolls hits 11
Palm Beach Post
April 13, 2016 

Exclusive: Up to 90 million more Takata airbag inflators may face U.S. recalls
Reuters
February 22, 2016

Takata engineer refused to testify in airbag failure lawsuit
Automotive News
February 13, 2016

Takata Engineer Refused to Testify in Air Bag Failure Lawsuit
Bloomberg
February 12, 2016

Takata Discarded Evidence of Airbag Ruptures as Early as 2000
The New York Times
February 12, 2016

Takata Emails Show Brash Exchanges About Data Tampering
The New York Times
January 4, 2016

Honda Chastised Takata as Deadly Air Bag Crisis Unfolded
Bloomberg
December 23, 2015

Takata Says No to Fund for Victims of Defective Airbag
The New York Times
July 9, 2015

Largest automotive recall in history comes too late for victims
ABC Action News WFTS
May 20, 2015

Investigators: Potentially Dangerous Recalls Hiding in Your Car
ABC6
February 26, 2015

How could a slow speed crash turn an active retiree into a quadriplegic?
NBC5 WPTV
February 3, 2015

Woman, 76, struggling to breathe because of faulty airbag, lawsuit says
The Florida Times-Union
February 2, 2015

Family: Faulty airbag left our grandmother paralyzed
First Coast News
February 2, 2015

Family members describe impact of defective airbag that left woman paralyzed
ActionNewsJax.com
February 2, 2015

Jacksonville woman sues Honda, Takata after airbags leave her paralyzed
ActionNewsJax.com
January 28, 2015

Woman sues over airbag injuries
News4 Jacksonville
January 24, 2015

Jacksonville woman files lawsuit seeking millions over air bag malfunction
The Florida Times-Union
January 23, 2015

Honda and Takata sued by woman claiming airbag paralyzed her
LA Times
January 22, 2015

Honda Chastised Takata as Deadly Air bag Crisis Unfolded
Bloomberg
December 23, 2015