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From Products Liability Law Daily, December 10, 2014

Class action against Takata stayed pending transfer to MDL decision

By Pamela C. Maloney, J.D.

A putative class action filed in a federal court in Florida by purchasers and lessees of automobiles containing allegedly defective airbags manufactured by Takata Corp. has been stayed pending a decision regarding the transfer and coordination of this and 19 other related class actions by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (Dunn v. Takata Corp., December 8, 2014, King, J.).

Background. The class action complaint filed by purchasers and lessors of vehicles containing Takata airbags alleged that these airbags were defective in that they violently exploded during accidents causing metal fragments to shoot out and injure or kill vehicle occupants. The complaint stated that the class members were harmed because the airbag problems had diminished the value of their vehicles and made the vehicles dangerous to drive. The class further alleged that although the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had urged consumers to “act immediately” to get their airbags replaced, customers driving the affected vehicles could not get replacement airbags due to a severe shortage of parts, with the result that Toyota has gone so far as to disable passenger side airbags and place “Do Not Sit Here” decals in the vehicles. No manufacturer has offered loaner cars to affected consumers, they said.

Motion to stay. On November 17, the automaker defendants—American Honda Motor Co., Inc., BMW of North America, LLC, BMW Manufacturing Co., LLC, Ford Motor Company, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., and Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc.—moved to stay the proceedings pending a decision by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (“JPML”) regarding the transfer and coordination of this and 19 other related class actions. Although the class had filed a motion to transfer and coordinate this case with others, it had advocated for assignment of the consolidated action to the Florida federal court and had indicated their intention to continue litigating their claims pending resolution of the transfer motion,

In support of its motion for a short stay, the automaker defendants argued that transfer and coordination of the Takata airbag cases was essential to the just and efficient resolution of these cases and that the failure to stay the proceedings pending a decision on that motion would be unfairly prejudicial. On the other hand, the automaker defendants contended that there was no risk of prejudice to the class if the proceedings were delayed because nothing of consequence had yet occurred. In addition, the class’s arguments before the JPML indicated that they would benefit from a stay.

The automaker defendants also pointed out that the Florida lawsuit excluded several automakers that had been named in other Takata airbag class actions and that these other defendants had manufactured more than one million recalled vehicles. The exclusion of these parties from the Florida proceedings would make it impossible to formulate a unified pre-trial program that would minimize the overall expense for all parties, the automaker defendants argued.

Judge James Lawrence King granted the motion to stay but denied the motion for expedited discovery filed by the putative class, with leave to re-file.

Attorneys: David Fernandes (Baron & Budd, PC) for Craig Dunn. Benjamin R. Barnett (Dechert LLP), and David M. Bernick (Kirkland & Ellis) for TK Holdings, Inc. Daniel John Kissane (Cole, Scott & Kissane), and Eric S. Mattson (Signey Austin, LLP) for American Honda Co., Inc. Eric Y. Kizirian (Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard and Smith, LLP) for BMW of North America LLC. Edward Colin Thompson (DLA Piper LLP) for Ford Motor Co. John Carl Seipp, Jr. (Seipp, Flick & Hosley, LLP), and Terri Steinhaus Reiskin (Dykema Gossett PLLC) for Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. Companies: Takata Corp.; TK Holdings, Inc.; American Honda Co., Inc.; BMW of North America LLC; Ford Motor Co.; Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

MainStory: TopStory NHTSANews MotorEquipmentNews FloridaNews

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