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U.S. fines Takata $70 million over faulty air bags

Minnesota readers may be interested to learn that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration fined Takata Corporation $70 million on Nov. 3 for mishandling the recalls of millions of faulty automobile air bags. The air bags, which were prone to sudden explosions, killed eight people and injured more than 100 others worldwide.

As part of a five-year agreement reached with Takata, the NHTSA also ordered the Japanese company to cease production of the air bag inflators that are blamed for the explosions unless it can prove they are safe. If Takata fails to abide by the terms of the deal, the federal agency could add up to $130 million to the company's fine, which would make the penalty a record $200 million.

Takata's air bag inflators use an explosion of ammonium nitrate to expand. Investigators discovered the compound can burn too fast when exposed to long periods of high humidity, which can cause a metal canister inside the air bag to blow apart and shoot shrapnel at a vehicle's occupants. Most of the inflator explosions that caused the injuries and deaths happened in humid U.S. states bordering the Gulf of Mexico.

Takata was forced to recall around 19.2 million U.S. vehicles over the issue. The company is still facing a criminal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and hundreds of civil lawsuits.

Minnesota residents who have been injured due to a defective auto part, such as a faulty air bag, may benefit by speaking with an attorney. In some situations, counsel may find it advisable to file an auto product liability lawsuit against the responsible manufacturer seeking compensation for the damages that have been sustained.

Source: NBC News, "Takata Fined $70 Million Over Handling of Exploding Air Bag Recall," Nov. 3, 2015

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