Honda, Takata settle airbag suits, lose round in class action case

Thu Dec 3, 2015 6:58pm EST
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By David Shepardson

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. judge has rejected a bid by air bag manufacturer Takata Corp (7312.T: Quote) and automaker Honda Motor Co(7267.T: Quote) to toss out a class-action lawsuit on behalf of millions of owners with potentially faulty airbag inflators, even as the firms are moving to quickly settle death claims.

The Japanese companies have agreed to undisclosed settlements for six of eight deaths linked to ruptured inflators as U.S. prosecutors ramp up a probe of the ruptures and whether regulators were misled. Four settlements have been reached in recent months.

Litigation arising from four of the six U.S. deaths has been settled, Honda spokesman Chris Martin said. Court records show a fifth U.S. death - in September 2014 in California - has also been settled.

Honda has been working to settle claims quickly, Martin said. "Honda has worked in good faith to quickly resolve the concerns of those families," he said.

Honda, Takata and other automakers will continue to face a class-action suit filed on behalf of millions of owners that alleges Takata and the automakers violated anti-racketeering laws because of a ruling on Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno in Miami.

Since 2008, at least 19.2 million U.S. vehicles have been recalled for inflators that can rupture. The suit claims millions of car owners overpaid for vehicles with faulty airbags and the recalls reduced the value of those vehicles.

"Honda looks forward to the opportunity to properly challenge plaintiffs' claims," Honda's Martin said. He said the automaker is confident that the racketeering claim will be dismissed.

Takata declined to comment on the ruling.   Continued...

A woman stands next to a logo of Takata Corp at a showroom for vehicles in Tokyo, Japan,  November 6, 2015.  REUTERS/Toru Hanai