It took many years for the full extent of the Takata defective airbag scandal to come to light. For many years, company officials denied the problem and government regulators did not ask many questions. Eventually, cornered corporate heads admitted fault, government officials levied huge fines, and Takata declared bankruptcy. Many assumed that the nightmare was over.
However, that’s not the case. In most product liability cases, most potential victims never receive notice of the defect. Companies continue to look for the easy way out. So, they send the minimum number of notices. With regard to automobile defects, that usually means sending recall notices to record owners. But many cars manufactured in the 1990s are on at least their third or fourth owner. These individuals may have no idea that they are essentially driving time bombs.
The attorneys at Napoli Law work hard to make things right in these situations. Because of our experience, we know how to get around the legal obstacles that these companies often deploy. Furthermore, because of our compassion, we understand the full extent of your pain and suffering. Finally, because of our tenacity, we do not settle for anything less than the best possible result under the circumstances.
The Problem That Won’t Go Away
AIrbags are marvelous machines. In only a fraction of a second, crash sensors trigger chemical reactions which superheat chemical propellants. These propellants expand very, very rapidly yet they do not explode. That action safely inflates the airbag and saves lives.
For years, Takata airbags used a chemical propellant called tetrazole. When exposed to heat, this chemical always safely and quickly expands. It never suddenly and violently explodes. The company insisted that the new propellant, ammonium nitrate, was effective and safe.
However, ammonium nitrate is highly unstable. Furthermore, while it has expansive properties, like tetrazole, it also has explosive properties, much like gasoline fumes. When ammonium nitrate is suddenly heated, either event could occur.
So, there is just no way to tell what will happen. Takata airbags could suddenly explode even after the driver bumps a curb. Under established product liability standards, that’s simply not acceptable.
Your Claim for Damages
As mentioned earlier, many defective Takata airbag victims did not purchase their vehicles directly from the manufacturer. So, there is no privity of contract between the victim and Takata. In many states, the obscure “privity of contract” rule cuts off product liability claims in these cases.
But things are different in the Empire State, because of 1970’s Mendel v. Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co. In this case, the Court of Appeals allowed a victim to recover in a product liability case even though there was no privity of contract between the parties.
Most product liability claims involve a breach of warranty. Under the Uniform Commercial Code, all goods must:
- Be of fair, average quality,
- Conform to any affirmations or claims that the company made (remember that Takata said its airbags were safe), and
- Be fit for their ordinary purpose.
Special rules apply to merchants and other sellers who deal with specific kinds of merchandise. That definition includes vehicle salespeople.
New York rules are also more liberal in terms of expert witnesses. Many claims, especially science-based claims, involve highly technical details that only certain people can comprehend and explain. In New York, the rules regarding expert witness evaluation are a bit more relaxed than they are in other states. So, many product liability claims are even easier to establish in court.
Personal Injury Claims and Bankruptcy
In 2017, Japan’s Takata Corporation filed bankruptcy in the United States. Company officials hoped that this legal maneuver would immunize them from product liability claims. But these corporate leaders have never clashed with the Napoli Law professional team.
As a general rule, bankruptcy halts liability lawsuits and makes these actions harder to win once they resume. But victims in these situations still have a number of legal options.
If the deadline has not passed, victims may file proof of claims with the bankruptcy court. In most cases, a proof of claim is easier to establish than a liability action.
Other victims may be able to bypass the automatic stay. The legal standard here is quite low. Victims need only show “cause” in these cases. That cause could be almost anything which the judge believes to be legitimate.
Corporations often try to use bankruptcy as a sword instead of a shield. They argue that the corporate entity which emerged from bankruptcy is different than the one which declared bankruptcy. Therefore, they claim, there is no liability.
Technically, that is true. But many courts have expressly rejected this argument, especially if there is evidence that the former company knew about the danger and disregarded it. That’s arguably the case with regard to defective Takata airbags.
Recall notices and other such actions may be no help whatsoever to victims. For a free consultation with an aggressive personal injury attorney in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC. Attorneys can arrange for victims to receive top medical care, even if they have no money or insurance.