A lawsuit filed Monday against supplier Takata appears to be the first to seek class-action status for millions of consumers worldwide who have been driving cars with potentially explosive air bags.
The Japanese company, which equipped vehicles for at least 10 automakers with faulty air bags, was sued Monday in an action filed with a U.S. District Court in Florida, Reuters reported.
As a supplier, Takata "had a duty to disclose these safety issues because they consistently marketed their vehicles as reliable and safe," said the lawsuit, as quoted by Reuters. Carmakers including Honda and Toyota have also been named as defendants in the case.
In the U.S., federal regulators have implored consumers driving 7.8 million Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, BMW, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan, Fuji Heavy's Subaru and Toyota vehicles to take their vehicles in for repairs.
Takata has been hit with two other lawsuits in the past week, both of which were brought by individual owners. If class-action status is granted for the lawsuit filed Monday, the supplier may be paying even more in a trial or settlement than it would for individual actions.
The air bags, which can explode in the event of a crash to rain shrapnel on the vehicle's occupants, have been linked to at least four deaths and more than 30 injuries in the U.S.
Takata used an "unusual explosive chemical" to make air bags that would inflate in milliseconds, a choice that will probably come up in safety investigations, Bloomberg Businessweek reported.
"No other supplier other than Takata has used this ammonium nitrate," said Jochen Siebert, managing director of JSC Automotive Consulting, as quoted by Businessweek. "You could build air bags that were smaller and lighter. It was all about technology; it wasn't even about price. But it all went wrong."