Florida Heat, Humidity Contributes to Dangerous Air Bag Defect


The auto industry has earned a poor reputation in recent years for defective parts that pose a danger to motorists, and for failing to warn of those defects.

Most recently among those is the recall initiated by seven auto manufacturers with respect to faulty airbags that diminish in quality when exposed to hot, humid weather. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it launched an investigation in July, following six reports of ruptured airbags in Florida and Puerto Rico, with three of those cases resulting in serious injury. The heat and humidity over extended periods of time cause the airbags to deploy with too much force. An estimated 10 million vehicles produced by BMW, Ford, Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Chrysler and Mazda are affected, though that figure is expected to climb. The recall focuses in warmer-weather states like Florida.

West Palm Beach defective auto attorneys understand that in one Florida case, the excessive force of the air bag deployment resulted in the bag rupturing and shrapnel being driven into the driver’s eye. He lost sight and suffered cuts requiring 100 stitches.

This is the latest in a series of airbag-related recalls in recent years. Last spring, Honda, Toyota and Nissan recalled some 3.5 million vehicles around the world due to airbags that contained a propellant that caused in-vehicle fires.

A Japanese company, Takata, is responsible for the manufacture of these defective bags. Company officials say they are cooperating with federal regulators in the U.S., but stopped short of conceding that their product is defective.

Other states where the vehicles have so far been recalled include Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Hawaii. It’s important for those purchasing new vehicles to note whether the car was owned by someone in one one of these states for an extensive period of time.

Airbags aren’t the only vehicle component that has been spotlighted by safety advocates recently. Just counting those vehicles recalled in July, there were:

  • 400,000 vehicles recalled from GM for electrical signal shorts that could cause the transfer case to shift to neutral without driver input;
  • 91,000 Cadillac vehicles recalled for possible detachment of transmission shift cables;
  • Dozens of seat belt attachments recalled in recent-model Allied Recreation motor homes for possible fraying;
  • 300 Viking RV vehicles recalled for incorrect labels displaying tire air pressure, which has the potential to result in a tire blowout.
  • 67,000 Harley-Davidson motorcycles recalled for possible pinched brake lines that could result in a lock-up of the front wheel.
  • 660,000 Subaru cars recalled for brake line corrosion;
  • 2 million Graco car seats recalled for belt buckle that could become stuck in a latched position.

Not all of these incidents have resulted in injury, but all have the potential. Additionally, not all potentially dangerous vehicle defects have resulted in a recall. It’s worth noting that a recall does not indemnify a company against possible civil litigation if an injury results from a vehicle defect.

The recent case of Brand v. Hyundai involved a vehicle defect. Although no injury  occurred in the case, the Fourth Appellate District Court of California found it was reasonable that a jury could find that a spontaneously-opening-and-closing sunroof could constitute as a safety hazard in breach of an implied warranty. This decision reversed an earlier ruling by the lower court and allowed the product liability case to proceed.

Typically, however, successful tort cases involving defective vehicles do involve some form of serious injury.

If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at (561) 347-7770 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.

Additional Resources:

Automakers Recall Millions of Cars for Defective Air Bags, June 23, 2014, Associated Press

More Blog Entries:

Carter v. Progressive Mountain Ins. – Battling for Underinsured Motorist Coverage, July 18, 2014, West Palm Beach Defective Vehicle Lawyer