By Colleen Kave, J.D.
Class action settlement agreements resolving claims against multiple auto manufacturers were filed on Thursday by plaintiffs in the Takata Airbag Product Liability multidistrict litigation (MDL) currently being overseen by Judge Federico A. Moreno in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Miami Division. The settlements will compensate vehicle owners and lessees for their economic losses as well as facilitate the removal of dangerous airbag inflators from 15.8 million Toyota, Subaru, Mazda, and BMW vehicles. Personal injury claims related to the MDL are not covered by the proposed settlements, and economic loss claims pending against other automakers will continue to be prosecuted (Plaintiffs’ Committee for Takata Airbag Product Liability Litigation Press Release, May 18, 2017).
Plaintiffs filed claims for economic loss related to the named automakers’ use of allegedly defective Takata airbag inflators that could, upon deployment, rupture and expel shrapnel into the occupant compartment and/or otherwise affect the airbag’s deployment. Vehicles subject to the agreements include 9.2 million Toyota vehicles, 2.6 million Subaru vehicles, 2.3 million BMW vehicles, and 1.7 million Mazda vehicles. Members of the class include current owners or lessees of an affected vehicle distributed for sale or lease in the United States or all of its territories and possessions, as of the date of the issuance of the Preliminary Approval Order, or former owners or lessees who sold or returned, pursuant to a lease, an affected vehicle after April 11, 2013, and through the date of the issuance of the Preliminary Approval Order.
Settlement provisions. In light of the low number of affected vehicles that have received the recall remedy since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) first announced recalls of defective Takata airbag inflators, the settlements include a new independent outreach program designed to increase recall remedy completion rates. According to NHTSA, recall completion rates as of the end of April 2017 were 31.89 percent for Toyota vehicles, 31.37 percent for Subaru vehicles, 18.16 percent for Mazda vehicles, and 16.48 percent for BMW vehicles. Under the new program, which will be overseen by a Settlement Special Administrator, class members will receive regular notices via direct mail, phone calls, email, internet ads, and social media to educate them about the settlement and encourage them to complete the recall remedy and exercise their rights under the settlement agreements.
The settlements, which are subject to court approval, also establish a Rental Car Loaner Program through which the most at-risk class members can receive a rental/loaner vehicle in the event that a recall remedy part is not available; provide reimbursement for certain reasonable out-of-pocket expenses related to the Takata airbag inflator recalls; set up a Customer Support Program to cover repairs and adjustments (including parts and labor) needed to correct defects, if any, in materials or workmanship of the Takata inflators contained in the driver’s or passenger’s front airbag modules or replacement driver or passenger inflators installed pursuant to the Takata Airbag Recall in affected vehicles; and provide for residual distribution of any remaining settlement funds.
Companies: BMW of North America, LLC; Mazda North American Operations; Subaru of America, Inc.; Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing
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