WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Takata Corp has rejected the suggestion that it establish a compensation fund for the victims of defective air bag inflators that have been linked to at least eight deaths and more than 100 injuries, a U.S. senator announced on Friday.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, urged the Japanese manufacturer to consider setting up a fund during a June 23 oversight hearing on Takata's recall of nearly 34 million air bag inflators in the United States.
The inflators, at the center of one of the largest consumer product recalls in U.S. history, can explode on impact, firing metal shrapnel into passenger compartments.
"Takata believes that a national compensation fund is not currently required," Kevin Kennedy, a Takata executive vice president, informed the senator in a July 7 letter.
He said the company would instead concentrate on individual claims and a multi-district personal injury case in Florida.
"Takata’s senior management has given the idea of a
compensation fund careful consideration, and we will continue to evaluate the possible benefits of such a mechanism," Kennedy wrote.
Separately, Takata issued a statement underscoring its "commitment to treating fairly anyone injured as a result of an inflator rupture."
But Blumenthal, a former state attorney general, said he was astonished and disturbed by the response.
"Takata is apparently unwilling to acknowledge its responsibility for these tragic deaths and injuries, or do justice for victims and their loved ones," the lawmaker said in a statement accompanying the Takata letter, which were both released by his office.
"I will press Takata to reconsider this callous misjudgment, and do right by the innocent victims of its harm."
Blumenthal suggested to Takata last month that the creation of a compensation fund would uncover victims who have yet to come forward.
General Motors Co last year set up a $600 million fund to compensate victims of faulty ignition switches, which have been tied to more than 120 deaths. The fund has received more than 4,300 claims.