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Product liability woes continue unabated in tragic air bag saga

Criminal and civil backlash have been an unremitting constant in the wake of initial stories that now go back several years concerning air bag defects on a massive global scale.

Just how big was -- and continues to be -- the fallout from exploding air bags made by Japan-based manufacturer Takata Corporation?

In a word: unprecedented.

Here are a few numbers relating to the saga that are often reported:

  • At least 16 wrongful death fatalities worldwide
  • An additional 180 nonfatal injuries suffered by drivers and passengers
  • Nearly 70 million recalled air bags in the United States alone
  • 42 million affected vehicles in the U.S., making for the largest automobile recall ever announced in the country

Given such sheer scope, it is patently unsurprising that related money figures that have surfaced in the matter are equally eye-popping.

There's this, for instance: Reportedly, Takata has reached agreement to dole out a staggering $1billion in criminal penalties for fraudulent concealment of known bag defects.

And, of course, the bag maker is far from being the only commercial entity implicated in the matter and being tasked to cough up sizable funds in both criminal and civil actions.

Car makers themselves face outlays in the hundreds of millions of dollars, stemming from litigation grounded in product liability involving wrongful death and personal injuries to consumers' cost-related claims for repair, down time at work, the hiring of rental cars, reduced sales value of their vehicles and additional matters.

Such claims will deeply dent the corporate coffers at Toyota, Mazda and other auto makers, as evidenced by their recent execution of a settlement pact pursuant to which they agreed to pay out in excess of $550 million to compensate owners of affected vehicles.

The Takata tale goes on, seemingly endlessly.

And it is likely to continue doing so, given reports that only a fraction of drivers with bags needing repairs have had that work completed.

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