Toyota has become the first car maker to have a class action lawsuit filed against it for its handling of the Takata airbag recall in Australia, though cases against Honda, Mazda, BMW, Subaru, Audi and Volkswagen are "expected to be filed in the coming weeks".
The raft of class action lawsuits, filed by Quinn Emanuel Urquhart &
Sullivan in the Supreme Court of NSW, comes after the federal government
proposed loan cars, complimentary tows and refunds for affected drivers under a draft mandatory recall program.
The Takata recall has spiralled into the largest product safety crisis in
recent history, affecting 2.49 million cars just in Australia, and sending a 21-year-old Darwin woman to
hospital for months and killing a 58-year-old NSW man.
The volatile chemical used to inflate the airbags combusts with such force
that its metal case shatters into shards that shoot towards the very
occupants the airbags were designed to protect.
But drivers have been left with little recourse since the recall widened to
include more than two million cars in 2015. An earlier CHOICE investigation
found customers had to typically wait six months for a replacement and were
often given identical, faulty airbags as a short-term fix.
Partner Damian Scattini at the firm Quinn Emanuel says the class action
lawsuit will empower the half-a-million Toyota drivers affected by the
"Under the Australian Consumer Law, goods need to be safe," he says. "This
class action will allow Australians whose vehicles are fitted with the
potentially deadly Takata airbag to seek either a safe replacement airbag
Hundreds of Toyota drivers have registered to take part in the class
action, though Quinn Emanuel continues to take registrations, including for its upcoming class actions against Honda, Mazda, BMW, Subaru, Audi and
Leading the class action is plaintiff Louise Haselhurst, a single mother of
two who was told she'd have to wait six months for a replacement airbag
for her Toyota Corolla, a car she bought brand new in 2011.
"Toyota has put my family's life at risk," says Haselhurst. "Something
needs to be done urgently by car manufacturers before more lives are
Toyota did not disclose how many of its cars are affected in Australia, though in April of 2017, it told CHOICE it had
repaired 31% of the 529,452 affected vehicles.
Car makers that did not recall cars fitted with Takata airbags are also
being slapped with a class action lawsuit. Volkswagen and Audi are two of eight car makers that have not initiated recalls, even though the type of
airbags in their cars have a documented history of rupturing.
Takata airbags have been linked to 19 deaths worldwide and have injured 207
people just in the United States. The injuries include the loss of
eyesight, facial injuries, lacerations to the face, neck and body, severed
vocal cords, spinal damage and head injuries including brain damage.
The ACCC launched a probe into
the recall within 24 hours of CHOICE revealing the industry had
repaired less than a third of the cars affected since it was originally
initiated in 2009. The ACCC recommended to the federal government that a
mandatory recall be instituted, with a determination to be made in the coming months.
28 November: A second car maker has since had a class action filed against it. Quinn Emanuel filed a second class action against Subaru for its handling of the Takata airbag recall on 22 November.
12 January: Class action lawsuits have been filed against BMW and Nissan.