Two more lawsuits filed against Honda, Takata for air bag defect

DETROIT (REUTERS) - The recall crisis involving Takata-made air bags exploding with too much force and spraying occupants with metal shrapnel continues to grow, with two more lawsuits filed concerning accidents in older Honda cars.

News of the lawsuits comes a day after Toyota Motor Corp recalled 247,000 vehicles in the United States because of potentially defective air bags made by Takata Corp. Also on Monday, U.S. safety regulators urged consumers affected by similar recalls to have their cars' air bags replaced as soon as possible.

That news led Takata's shares to fall 23 per cent on Tuesday in Tokyo, the stock's biggest one-day drop ever. The shares have declined 44 per cent so far this year.

More than 4 million cars produced by nine automakers including Toyota, Honda Motor and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' Chrysler Group are affected by regional recalls launched in June. They began in certain high-humidity areas of the United States after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) started investigating reports of air bag explosions in Florida and Puerto Rico.

NHTSA is probing whether Takata air bag inflators made between 2000 and 2007 were improperly sealed, which could lead to the bag inflating with excessive force and potentially spraying metal shrapnel at occupants. That issue has been linked to four deaths and resulted in several lawsuits.

More than 16 million vehicles globally have been recalled for defective Takata air bags since 2008.

The two accidents resulting in lawsuits against Honda and Takata both took place in Florida.

A Honda spokesman declined to comment on both lawsuits because they are pending. A Takata spokesman referred questions to Honda.

According to an accident report and lawsuit filed in July in a Florida state court, Corey Burdick, 26, was driving his 2001 Honda Civic in Eustis, Florida on May 29 when he was involved in an accident with another vehicle.

The accident report said an eye injury Burdick suffered was"possibly caused by the air bag deployment".

The lawsuit, which is seeking damages above US$15,000 (S$19,000), said "shards of metal were propelled through the air bag's fabric and struck Corey Burdick in the eye, resulting in disfigurement, impaired vision and other severe permanent injuries".

In the second accident, Stephanie Erdman, a then 28-year Texan stationed at a military base in Florida was driving her 2002 Civic in Santa Rosa County when she was involved in an accident with another vehicle on Sept. 1, 2013, according to an accident report and lawsuit.

The lawsuit described how "shards of metal, like shrapnel, were propelled toward Stephanie Erdman ... striking (her) in the face and right eye". It included a picture of her bloody face and the metal lodged in her eye.

Erdman's lawsuit, which is seeking more than US$1 million in damages, was filed in late May in a Texas state court, where she purchased the car.