A Texas woman has sued American Honda Motor Co. and the U.S. subsidiary of airbag maker Takata Corp. for at least $1 million, claiming she was badly injured when the ammonium nitrate propellant in her car exploded in a low-speed accident.
Takata’s airbag inflators, which contain ammonium nitrate, have been linked to at least 16 deaths, mainly in the United States, and more than 150 injuries and resulted in the largest vehicle recall in history.
The lawsuit filed late on Monday in a state district court in Houston claims Takata has known for more than two decades that ammonium nitrate is “dangerous unstable” but continued using it as a propellant because of its low cost.
The plaintiff, Serena Martinez, said the ammonium nitrate in the airbag in her Honda detonated in the collision, causing the bag’s inflator to disintegrate and spraying her with shrapnel.
She was struck in her chest and arms by the flying debris, the suit said.
Officials from Honda and Takata were not immediately available for comment.
Automakers worldwide are ramping up the industry’s biggest-ever recall after Takata, under pressure from U.S. authorities, agreed earlier this year to declare more of its airbags as defective in the U.S. and other countries.
Last week, Toyota Motor Corp. said it was recalling about 5.8 million cars at home and abroad over potentially faulty airbag inflators made by Takata, including those used as replacement parts following a 2010 recall.
In September, Honda said it was recalling about 668,000 vehicles in Japan to replace airbag inflators supplied by Takata as part of an expanded nationwide recall announced earlier this year.
“Because of their decision to use a propellant known for its dangerous properties, Takata airbags are killing and maiming drivers and passengers across the country involved in otherwise minor and survivable accidents,” the lawsuit said.
Takata has been subject to numerous lawsuits over its airbags. U.S. regulators have ordered Takata to recall all airbags using ammonium nitrate without a drying agent by 2019, a move being fought by some carmakers who see it as unnecessary.
Prolonged exposure of the defective Takata inflators to hot and humid conditions has been found to cause airbags to explode with excessive force, spraying shrapnel into passenger compartments, regulators have said.