TORONTO - The latest in a series of proposed Canadian class-action suits over potentially deadly airbags was launched Thursday, this one over those installed in Chrysler vehicles.
The lawsuits claim Japan-based Takata Corp. and its U.S. subsidiary negligently designed and manufactured "life-threatening and dangerous" bag inflators that were installed in millions of vehicles.
In the latest statement of claim filed with Ontario Superior Court, the plaintiff alleges more than 36-million vehicles worldwide containing Takata-made airbags have been recalled. The suit alleges the company knew about the problem for more than a decade but failed to provide timely warnings.
"Our clients and the vehicle owners deserve an answer as to why it took so long for Takata and these manufacturers took so long to issue these recalls and why these defendants exposed these vehicle owners to a risk to their well being, their lives and safety for so long," lawyer Alex Constantin said in an interview from Windsor, Ont.
Chrysler Canada, which reported a voluntary recall of more than 258,000 vehicles in January, refused a request for comment.
None of the claims has been certified as a class action or proven in any court.
Airbags are designed to inflate at high speed in the event of a crash, cushioning the occupants of a vehicle. The defective devices, however, can propel shrapnel into the vehicle, maiming or killing the driver, according to the suit.
The faulty design stems from a decision by Takata executives in 1999 to come up with a cheaper propellant for use in their airbags. The company began using ammonium nitrate despite knowing it to be a "risky compound," according to the claim.
"Multiple deaths and dozens of injuries have been linked to over-explosive airbag-inflator propellant causing metal components within the device to break and project through the airbag cushion material at vehicle occupants," the claim states.
Takata's CEO has acknowledged the problem and apologized, according to the filing.
The lead plaintiff, Gary Coles, of Tecumseh, Ont., bought a Chrysler 300 in 2006. In March, he contacted Chrysler Canada to find out if the vehicle contained a Takata airbag requiring replacement and the company confirmed it did.
"To the date of the filing of this claim, he has not received an official recall notice from the Chrysler defendants," the statement asserts.
Constantin said his law firm launched its first action last fall and has added further ones as the scope of the problem became evident and may start new actions or amend the existing suits as more information emerges.
Previous suits targeted other large vehicle makers such as Toyota, Honda, Nissan, BMW and Ford.
In December, Takata rejected American regulator demand for a nationwide recall, saying there was "not enough scientific evidence" to justify one.
This week, however, the company agreed to declare 34 million airbags in the U.S. defective, triggering the largest auto recall in history.