Product Defects – Takata Airbags

Published on September 1, 2016

Ammonium Nitrate
Our firm is attempting to help families of those who have been injured or killed as a result of the Takata airbag explosions.  You can read about these explosions on our blog here.  These explosions, due to the use of ammonium nitrate in the airbag, are causing serious laceration injuries and death as a result of shrapnel entering the occupant compartments of vehicles.  There have been fourteen (14) deaths and thousands of injuries as a result of this defect, and manufacturers have recalled over 100,000,000 vehicles.

In light of the above, the public needs to be aware of what to do in the event such an unfortunate circumstance happens.  First, obviously, take care of the injured individual.  But, once that has been done, the car MUST be preserved so that the experts, engineers, and auto manufacturers can inspect the component parts and document the defect.  Some of these cases can proceed without preserving the vehicle, but having it significantly improves the ability for the injured victim to prove her case.

The following Alabama statute defines a Product Liability Action:

Section 6-5-521

“Product liability action” defined.

(a) A “product liability action” means any action brought by a natural person for personal injury, death, or property damage caused by the manufacture, construction, design, formula, preparation, assembly, installation, testing, warnings, instructions, marketing, packaging, or labeling of a manufactured product when such action is based upon (1) negligence, (2) innocent or negligent misrepresentation, (3) the manufacturer’s liability doctrine, (4) the Alabama extended manufacturer’s liability doctrine as it exists or is hereafter construed or modified, (5) breach of any implied warranty, or (6) breach of any oral express warranty and no other. A product liability action does not include an action for contribution or indemnity.

Further, under the Alabama Extended Manufacturer’s Liability Doctrine (“AEMLD”), Alabama courts have held as follows:

     “The elements of an AEMLD claim are as follows:

“`”`To establish liability, a plaintiff must show:

“`”`(1) suffered injury or damage[] to himself or his property by one who sells a product in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the plaintiff as the ultimate user or consumer, if

“`”`(a) the seller is engaged in the business of selling such a product, and

“`”`(b) it is expected to and does reach the user or consumer without substantial change in the condition in which it [was] sold.'”

“`Yamaha Motor Co. v. Thornton, 579 So. 2d 619, 621 (Ala. 1991) (quoting Casrell v. Altec Indus., Inc., 335 So. 2d 128, 132-33 (Ala. 1976)).'”

Tanksley v. ProSoft Automation, Inc., 982 So. 2d 1046, 1049-50 (Ala. 2007) (quoting Kirk v. Garrett Ford Tractor, Inc., 650 So. 2d 865, 866 (Ala. 1994)).

“In an AEMLD action, `the plaintiff must affirmatively show that the product was sold with a defect or in a defective condition.’ Jordan v. General Motors Corp., 581 So. 2d 835, 836-37 (Ala. 1991). `Without evidence to support the conclusion that the product was defective and/or unreasonably dangerous when it left the hands of the seller, the burden is not sustained.’ Jordan, 581 So. 2d at 837. `Proof of an accident and injury is not in itself sufficient to establish liability under the AEMLD; a defect in the product must be affirmatively shown.’ Townsend v. General Motors Corp., 642 So. 2d 411, 415 (Ala. 1994).”

Thus, in the Takata cases, the injured victim must prove that (1) he was injured by the airbag system; (2) the airbag system was defective; (3) the airbag system was in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the victim; (4) Takata was engaged in the business of manufacturing and selling the airbag system; and (5) the airbag system was expected to reach the consumer in the condition sold.

If you have any questions regarding these types of claims, please let us know.

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