Attorney General Andy Beshear announced Thursday a settlement with TK Holdings Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of Takata, over accusations that the company concealed safety issues related to defective air bags.
Takata’s faulty air bags were installed in a wide variety of vehicles from 19 different automakers, which affect approximately 480,000 cars in Kentucky, officials said. At least 20 people have died worldwide and hundreds more have been injured as a result of the defective air bags, according to a news release.
The settlement, reached between the attorneys general of 44 states and the District of Columbia and TK Holdings Inc., concludes a multistate investigation into the company’s failure to timely disclose known safety defects associated with certain air bag inflaters.
“Not only were the actions of this company in clear violation of Kentucky’s Consumer Protection Act, they were in total disregard for the lives and safety of thousands of Kentucky families,” said Beshear in the release. “We have worked hard with other state attorneys general to help those wronged by this faulty product and to hold the company accountable for their deceptive actions.”
Beshear said beginning in 2008, auto manufacturers issued recalls surrounding the air bag’s inflater, which over time could degrade and erupt in a crash, sending metal shards from the air bag throughout the passenger cabin.
To date, more than 50 million air bags in more than 37 million vehicles have been recalled, the release said. Counting anticipated recalls, the total number of affected air bags could reach around 65 or 70 million by 2019.
The multistate investigation accused the company of knowing about several ruptures, which occurred as early as 2004, but appropriate action to recall these unsafe inflaters did not occur until November 2014, according to the investigation.
TK Holdings Inc.’s parent company also pleaded guilty to manipulating testing data and submitting false and misleading reports to auto manufacturers.
Under the settlement, TK Holdings Inc. and its successor, reorganized TK Holdings, have agreed to comply with state and federal consumer protection laws and cooperate with auto manufacturers to ensure that replacement air bag inflaters are made available as quickly as possible, the news release stated.
TK Holdings Inc. has also agreed to reimburse the states for investigative costs, and for the entry of stipulated civil penalty in the amount of $650 million. The states agreed that, given the pending bankruptcy and the company’s inability to pay its debts, this penalty would be subordinated so as to maximize the recovery available to consumers who were the victims of this air bag defect.
The United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware has approved the settlement.
Beshear’s office said Kentuckians who had suffered economic loss, not including personal injury or other property damage, can find information about a private class-action lawsuit here.
As a part of Takata’s plea with the Department of Justice, $125 million was set aside to compensate personal injury and wrongful death claimants. Consumers with questions about how to make a claim, may visit takataspecialmaster.com.
To see if a vehicle is subject to a recall, drivers can contact automobile dealers and check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration page on recalls.