When 17-year old Huma Hanif accidentally rear-ended the car in front of her in Fort Bend County, Texas earlier this year, she should have been able to walk away from it. There should have been an exchange of records and information and she should have been able to carry on with her day, ever so slightly worse for the wear.
Instead, she’d become the 10th person in America believed to die because of a faulty Takata airbag. When the airbag in her 2002 Honda Civic deployed, it did so in such a way that sent metal fragments flying into the car’s cabin like shrapnel. One of these pieces struck her in the neck and Huma died at the scene.
In an effort to hold responsible those that contributed to their daughter’s death, her parents filed suit against multiple parties, including Takata, Honda, and the dealership that initially sold them the vehicle. They also named a lube and tune shop in their suit, as well as the driver that their daughter hit. The suit was settled in its entirety earlier this month under confidential terms.
The Hanifs were represented by multiple Texas attorneys, presumably because of the scope of their suit. One of those attorneys expressed relief at the relative speed with which the decision was made.
“One of the factors that they also considered in agreeing to the settlement was the closure aspect of it and not living through the horror of that day by going through depositions and maybe a trial,” he said after the settlement was reached.
The possibility of a bankruptcy declaration has loomed over Takata since the recall began, likely also contributing to the acceptance of the settlement. Nearly 100 million airbags around the world – 70 million of them in the United States – need to be replaced. And, Takata may face additional penalties after revelations that the company knew that there was a problem with their airbags and failed to report those problems. It also appears to have actively concealed the defect by way of the data it was releasing.
While one Takata airbag death has been resolved in the legal sense, the pain the Hanif family will feel will last for the rest of their lives. In the meantime, tens of millions of Takata airbags remain in cars all around the world and all we can do is hope that the deaths have come to an end.