ARC Airbag Update: New Wrongful Death Case, Pending Class Action Litigation, Government Investigation, and More - Newsome | Melton Law
 

We previously reported on a lawsuit our firm filed along with three other firms in May 2022 against ARC Automotive and several airbag suppliers and vehicle manufacturers. That lawsuit claims that certain ARC airbag inflators have an alleged defect which can cause them to rupture and shoot metal shrapnel at drivers and passengers. This post will provide an update on the key developments with respect to the alleged defect, the ongoing investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the pending litigation.

Newly filed wrongful death lawsuit claims that ARC inflator rupture killed a mother of ten.

Last August, Marlene Beaudoin was driving four of her children home from a day at the lake in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula when they were suddenly struck by another vehicle. Marlene died—but not simply because of the crash, according to a lawsuit her surviving family members just filed. Instead, the family’s legal pleading contends that she was killed because “pieces of the air bag inflator, steering wheel and steering column from Marlene Beaudoin’s Chevy Traverse pierced her chest, neck and head.” And, notably, “[p]olice reports show that a metal inflator fragment hit her neck in the crash.”

The Beaudoin family brought the lawsuit against ARC Automotive, the company which produced the airbag inflator, General Motors (the vehicle’s manufacturer), and Toyoda Gosei North America Corp. (the company which supplied the airbag to General Motors). As the lawsuit was just filed, the case remains in the early stages. We will continue to monitor the action as it proceeds and provide updates as they occur.

The nationwide class action pending in San Francisco.

The Beaudoin family wrongful death action is not the first case to be filed over the alleged ARC inflator defect. As previously stated, Newsome Melton and our co-counsel filed a nationwide class action lawsuit against ARC Automotive and several other defendants in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, San Francisco Division this past May. The case centers around the same alleged defect at the center of the case brought by the Beaudoin family.

The initial complaint named ARC Automotive, Joyson Safety Systems, Toyoda Gosei North America, Audi, Ford, General Motors, and Volkswagen as defendants. The recently-filed amended class action complaint added BMW and Porsche as defendants in the case, and alleges that:

All ARC inflators at issue in this action are substantially similar and share a common, uniform defect: the use of ammonium nitrate, a volatile and unstable chemical, as the propellant, combined with other faulty design decisions that compounded the dangers posed by the volatility of the phase-stabilized ammonium nitrate (“PSAN”), including the failure to incorporate pressure relief valves and using friction welding to secure the inflator halves without ensuring all metal flash would be removed (the “Inflator Defect”). It is well known in the airbag industry—and ARC itself has acknowledged—that ammonium nitrate is a dangerous propellant chemical that can over-pressurize during airbag deployment, sometimes resulting in violent explosions of the metal inflator canister, which expels shrapnel into the occupant compartment.

The complaint further alleges that “[t]here have been at least seven known ruptures of ARC’s Defective Inflators in vehicles, including six driver inflators and one passenger inflator.” Two of those ruptures resulted in a driver fatality.”

The NHSTA investigation.

NHTSA has been investigating the alleged ARC inflator defect since July 2015. The investigation documents state that inflators under scrutiny “may rupture during frontal air bag deployment resulting in metal fragments being propelled into the passenger compartment.” The agency began the investigation after receiving reports of two incidents, one occurring in 2009 and the other occurring in 2014, in which an ARC inflator allegedly ruptured.

We do not yet know all of the potentially affected vehicles. But, according to the Associated Press, NHTSA “has estimated that 51 million such vehicles are on U.S. roads,” which accounts for “somewhere between 10% and 20% of all passenger vehicles.”

The NHTSA investigation remains ongoing at this time, with the agency holding its cards close to its chest. But there have been several recalls since the investigation began—including one the agency just announced on July 27, 2022 for certain Audi and Volkswagen vehicles, including S3, R8, TT Roadster, TT Coupe, Golf, and E-Golf models produced within certain VIN ranges.

As we await the results of NTHSA’s investigation, it’s critical for consumers to be on the lookout for recalls that may include their vehicles. To check whether your vehicle has any open recalls, you can visit www.safercar.gov.

Do you have an injury or wrongful death claim?

Likewise, consumers must also be vigilant for odd or unexpected circumstances in crashes that result in injuries to themselves or their loved ones. One thing to be on the lookout for is metal fragments or shrapnel that cut or become embedded in a driver or passenger. This is a red flag that the vehicle may have had a defective airbag. Should this occur, the injured individual—and, potentially, their family—might have a legal claim for money damages against the inflator and airbag manufacturers, as well as the vehicle manufacturer. Those damages can pay for necessary medical care and treatment, lost wages (past, present, and future), as well as pain and suffering and loss of consortium (i.e., the impact the injuries have had on spouses, and potentially other individuals with a close relationship to the injured person).

One of our experienced products liability lawyers can help you determine whether you might have a claim. The consultation would be free of charge—meaning that you would not have to pay us a single dime unless and until we recover money for you.

Conclusion

Stay tuned. We’ll continue to report on major updates—including with respect to the NHTSA investigation, the pending litigation, and reported incidents—as more is uncovered. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at (888) 261-5614 or send us an email (inquiry@newsomelaw.com) should you or a loved one suffer an injury or death as a result of metal shrapnel from an airbag, or if you would like to learn more about potentially joining the class action lawsuit.