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Takata air bag victim's family cites skewed data to reopen lawsuit
[DETROIT] The family of a Virginia woman who was killed by shrapnel from a Takata Corp air bag is seeking to reopen a lawsuit it previously settled over her death based on allegations the company knew the device was defective.
Gurjit Rathore, 33, died in December 2009 when a mail truck hit her Honda Accord and the air bag deployed, shooting metal into her chest and neck. The lawsuit was settled for US$3 million, according to court records.
The death was one of the first of nine connected to shrapnel from Takata air bags and may be the first in which plaintiffs are seeking to reopen a long-settled claim after new disclosures allegedly showing the company tried to hide what it knew about the defect.
Takata didn't disclose evidence that the company manipulated test results before the family settled the lawsuit, plaintiffs' lawyers said on Tuesday in a statement. They said in an unfiled version of their request that they were seeking to set aside the settlement and order Takata to provide evidence produced in later air bag lawsuits. The filing couldn't be confirmed in state court in Richmond, Virginia.
"This effort to reopen a lawsuit that was settled in 2012 has no merit," said Jared Levy, a Takata spokesman.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has confirmed eight fatalities and more than 100 injuries caused by air bag shrapnel in the US. One death overseas has been linked to the defect. Automakers have recalled Takata air bags in 19 million vehicles.
Takata reached a consent decree with NHTSA on Nov 3, agreeing to pay fines of US$70 million, fire some employees and phase out the chemical explosive linked to the failures. If the company violates the accord, it will be subject to additional fines of as much as US$130 million, which would be the largest civil penalty in NHTSA's history.