Takata Corp., the Tokyo-based company whose potentially defective air bags have led to the recall of millions of vehicles, is being sued by consumers in the U.S. who claim the firm and several car manufacturers defrauded them by concealing crucial information.
The lawsuit, filed Monday with a U.S. District Court in Florida, is believed to be the first in the United States to seek class-action status on behalf of consumers nationwide.
If that status is granted, it could subject Takata to a larger payout in a trial or settlement than if vehicle owners were forced to sue individually.
The federal lawsuit is at least the third filed against Takata in the last week over allegedly defective air bags. The other lawsuits were brought on behalf of individual owners.
A Takata representative in the U.S. could not immediately be reached for comment.
The lawsuit also names car manufacturers — including Toyota and Honda — as defendants. Representatives for those companies in the U.S. also could not immediately be reached.
U.S. safety regulators are investigating whether Takata air bag inflators made from 2000 to 2007 were improperly sealed or subject to other defects.
At least four deaths and dozens of injuries have been linked to faulty Takata air bags, and their potential to rupture and spray metal shrapnel at vehicle occupants.
Takata “had a duty to disclose these safety issues because they consistently marketed their vehicles as reliable and safe,” the lawsuit says.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has urged owners of an estimated 7.8 million Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, BMW, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan, Fuji Heavy’s Subaru and Toyota vehicles to replace their air bags.