Hawaii Sues Honda and Takata Over Explosive Airbags

Hawaii filed lawsuit against Honda and Takata alleging violations of state consumer protection laws.

Posted in News

— Hawaii has filed suit against Takata and Honda for making, supplying and using airbags both companies allegedly knew were unsafe and deadly. The lawsuit alleges violations of consumer protection laws for unfair and deceptive conduct with maximum penalties of $10,000 per violation.

Hawaii says both Takata and Honda are the targets as Honda is the primary automaker affected by Takata's explosive airbags.

The Hawaii lawsuit alleges Takata is responsible for the decision to switch to ammonium nitrate, the chemical at the heart of the scandal. The explosive compound is cheaper than alternatives, but it's known for becoming unstable when affected by heat and humidity.

Hawaii officials say Takata took the cheap route to inflate its airbags despite the known risk associated with ammonium nitrate.

The suit claims Takata knew through its own testing the chemical was unpredictable yet continued to manufacturer and sell the airbags to automakers.

The lawsuit quotes a former Takata engineer who testified he warned a manager if the company went forward with plans to use the chemical, someone would be killed. The engineer was correct as at least 10 deaths have occurred in the U.S., although no deaths have been reported in Hawaii.

Hawaii says it believes at least 70,000 vehicles equipped with Takata airbags have been sold in the state, which means trouble for a state with high humidity.

The lawsuit says Takata and Honda put profits ahead of safety and honesty, but the complaint goes beyond those two companies. Also named are anonymous “Doe Defendants," described as corporate or individual defendants that could be added to the complaint based on evidence revealed during the lawsuit.

In addition to claims under consumer protection laws, the Hawaii lawsuit wants Honda and Takata to conduct a campaign to educate drivers about the need to repair the vehicles. Hawaii also seeks restitution for vehicle owners in addition to possible penalties of $700 million each for Honda and Takata.