By Hetty Chang
Wednesday, Nov 26, 2014
The lawyer for a family of a SoCal man suing air bag maker Takata said he is certain he'd be alive today had his air bag deployed properly.
According to the lawsuit and the medical examiner's report obtained by NBC4, Devin Xu, 47, died from head injuries sustained "as a result of the deployment of an air bag," citing a "metallic portion" that hit him in the face as it deployed.
"It's the type of thing that air bags are designed to protect against," said attorney Gary Dordick, who hopes Xu's lawsuit adds to mounting pressure for a nationwide recall on vehicles with air bags made by Japan's Takata Corporation.
Xu's family is suing Honda and Takata for punitive damages.
On Monday, Honda admitted it failed to report more than 1,7000 injury and death claims about its vehicles to U.S. safety regulators, a violation of federal law.
On Sept. 3, 2013 Xu was leaving the parking lot of an Alhambra restaurant where he worked as a chef. A medical issue caused him to lose control of his car and strike several cars before hitting a wall, Dordick said.
The impact caused Xu's air bag to deploy and explode, causing metal particles to strike him, ultimately resulting in his death, Dordick said.
Due to the nature of Xu's injuries, police who responded to his death initially thought they were dealing with a homicide, which is similar to what happened in at least one of five other deaths reportedly linked to faulty Takata air bags.
"They come out with an explosion with such force that the injuries are being misidentified as gunshot wounds," Dordick said of the sharp objects spewing out of the air bags, hitting passengers in the face.
"My client lost her husband. The children lost their father. They'll never be able to pick those pieces up again," he said.
Xu's 2002 Acura is one of hundreds of car models representing as many as 8 million cars named in the current international Takata recall.
The company has limited its recall in the U.S. to the Gulf region because it believes humidity is part of the problem.
A statement translated from Japanese to English on Takata's website refers to the investigation into a fatal accident that occurred in Malaysia in July 2014:
"The moisture absorption control of the gas generating agent in some driver seat air bags had not been correctly implemented at the time of manufacture, as a result of which an inflater canister may rupture when the air bag deploys."
"There's no moisture problem in California," said Dordick. "How many people have to get hurt? How many people have to die before they do the right thing?"
The lawsuit was filed the same day Takata executives testified before a Senate committee apologizing to the families of those who may have been impacted.
Auto industry experts have been watching Takata's actions closely. At least one expert warned of the unintended consequences.
"I'm seeing people posting on forums instructions on how to disable an air bag because they're worried," said Todd Turner, president of Car Concepts. "It's the worst thing you can possibly do."
Turner does not condone Takata's actions, but urged consumers to take a look at the bigger picture.
"You're looking at almost 50 million cars a year that are being sold in the world. Most of those have air bags in them," he said. "(In) most cases they work."
"We have information as early as 2005 (that) they knew about this problem," Dordick said. "They knew people were getting hurt and killed — so why eight years later is my client's husband and father killed for the same problem?"