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First Takata air bag class-action suit filed

This photo provided by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows a crash test of a 2002 Honda CR-V, one of the models subject to a recall to repair faulty air bags.

This photo provided by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows a crash test of a 2002 Honda CR-V, one of the models subject to a recall to repair faulty air bags.

(Associated Press)

The first class-action lawsuit against air bag manufacturer Takata Corp. and several automakers has been filed in Florida.

The law firms of Labaton Sucharow and Baron & Budd filed a complaint late Monday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, representing 21 plaintiffs across 10 states. The suit alleges that Takata built defective and deadly air bags and continued to install them in new vehicles for years after they knew about the product’s defect.

Takata representatives did not reply to a request for comment.

Air bags made by the Japanese company, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of automobile safety restraint systems, have been the subject of a 7.8-million-vehicle recall, and have been standard equipment in cars and trucks made by Honda, Toyota, Mazda, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Chrysler, Ford and BMW -- with Honda vehicles making up the bulk of the list.

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Improper deployment of the defective restraint systems has resulted in air bag explosions, during which bits of metal shrapnel have been blasted into the passenger compartment from the passenger side or driver side.

Warnings from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration have urged owners of suspect vehicles to contact their dealers and not drive with passengers until the vehicles have been inspected.

Last week the law firm of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, which won a $1.6-billion settlement for Toyota and has a current case against GM, said it would shortly be filing a class-action lawsuit against Takata, and would name Honda in its charges.

That firm appears to have been beaten to the punch, though, by the combined efforts of Labaton Sucharow and Baron & Budd. In their complaint, the firms allege that Takata’s air bag manufacturing defect dates to at least early 2000, and that Takata was aware of the defect a year later. The suit says Honda experienced its first Takata air bag explosion in 2004, but the company did not tell federal safety regulators of the incident until 2009.

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The firms, which connect the defective air bags to at least two deaths, are demanding a jury trial, and also name as defendants automakers Honda, BMW, Ford and Toyota.

The suit is meant to address, the firms said, “the need to protect drivers and passengers from vehicles containing these airbags; and ... the diminution in value of vehicles containing Takata airbags.”

Follow me on Twitter: @misterfleming

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