JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A lawsuit filed Wednesday on behalf of a Jacksonville woman who was left a quadriplegic when the driver's side air bag in her Honda Civic exploded during a crash claims Honda Motor Company and air-bag system manufacturer Takata Corp. are liable.
Patricia Mincey's attorney claims the companies concealed the defective nature of their air-bag systems from consumers for more than a decade prior to the June 2014 accident.
According to the lawsuit filed in the Circuit Court of the Fourth District in Duval County, both Honda and Takata, along with several of their subsidiary companies, were aware of the dangers associated with the defective air bags through consumer complaints, claims and lawsuits.
Attorneys for the plaintiff, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, say five deaths and 139 injuries have been attributed to defective Takata air bags in Honda vehicles over the past 13 years.
The lawsuit charges that the Honda and Takata defendants violated the law by failing to report, underreporting or omitting important report information regarding the defect to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
On June 19, 2014 -- four days after Mincey's crash -- Honda issued a recall for vehicles in Florida and California that were fitted with Takata air bags that might deploy with excessive force.
The recall, which cited Florida's humidity as a problem that could produce excessive internal air bag pressure, included Mincey's vehicle.
Mincey sustained catastrophic spinal cord and other injuries that left her a quadriplegic.
"This litigation takes Honda and Takata to task for their egregious disregard for consumer safety," attorney Theodore J. Leopold said in a statement. "The companies were aware for more than a decade that these air bags had the potential to violently explode and seriously injure or even kill occupants, yet they failed to take responsibility for producing and installing a safe product and/or recalling the defective air bags. Even in the June 2014 recall, Honda downplayed the situation by using the term 'energetic' air-bag deployment to describe the very defect that catastrophically and permanently injured Patricia Mincey."
On Oct. 22, the NHTSA expanded the list of vehicles affected by the recall of defective Takata air bag components to cover 10 automakers and 8 million vehicles. More than 5 million of those are Hondas.
On Jan. 8, NHTSA fined Honda an unprecedented $70 million for failing to report 1,729 death and injury claims tied to their vehicles between 2003 and 2014, many of those involving defective air bags.
"Product liability cases like this one often unveil a pattern of defrauding consumers in order to protect manufacturer profits," said Leopold. "Sadly, a massive human cost, such as that sustained by Patricia Mincey and her family, is often paid before a recall is issued."