A “ticking time bomb” is how some describe ARC-made airbag inflators. They may be distinct from the infamous Takata airbag inflator, yet they are equally dangerous to people traveling in a vehicle equipped with one. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) recalled the ARC inflators after consumers died from injuries caused by the defective auto part. Plaintiffs’ lawsuits over ARC inflators have been consolidated in a class action. The firm’s Demet Basar has been appointed co-lead counsel for the ARC Airbag multidistrict litigation (MDL). She will bring her knowledge and expertise about large and complex litigation as she helps guide the process for class members.
Demet has nearly 30 years of experience in class action litigation and MDLs that will benefit the plaintiffs as they seek justice. Most recently, she served as co-lead counsel with the firm’s Dee Miles in a class action that secured a $287 million class settlement for 6.5 million class members in the Toyota fuel pump litigation. Demet is the sole lead counsel for the national Rock ‘n Play Sleeper class action and previously served as co-class counsel with Dee Miles in the dangerous Toyota Sienna sliding doors class action. Demet has represented individual and corporate investors seeking recovery in securities fraud class actions. Earlier in her career, she co-chaired her previous firm’s Madoff Recovery Litigation Task Force in class actions surrounding the Bernie Madoff-operated Ponzi scheme. Demet brought her leadership experience to many other national litigations.
Judge Eleanor L. Ross is overseeing the class action. She noted in her order appointing the class leadership that Demet and the other eight lawyers appointed have extensive experience, are heavily invested in developing potential claims and are supported by their firms with resources “to vigorously prosecute this action through trial and appeal.”
The ARC inflator is a pressurized metal canister that contains different components or pieces. Like other airbag inflators, ARC inflators use highly compressed gas and a secondary propellant, a fuel that undergoes a chemical reaction to create a forceful movement such as an explosion. This process fills the airbag cushion with air during a crash. ARC inflators suffer from a two-part problem – a flawed process used to fuse or join the different components and an extremely unstable secondary fuel.
A friction welding process using heat and rotation fuses the different pieces of the ARC inflator. This process is flawed because it poorly joins the airbag inflator parts and creates excess weld flash that may block the ventilation holes. Once the inflators explode, broken pieces of the inflator, or shrapnel, are thrust forcefully throughout the vehicle cabin, potentially injuring or killing those in the vehicle.
Despite ammonium nitrate’s dangers revealed during the Takata airbag ordeal, it is often used as the secondary propellant in ARC inflators. This highly unstable chemical compound has proven to explode violently when exposed to changing temperature phases and moisture. While the ARC inflators attempt to prevent exposure to moisture, experts question if the extreme pressure made worse by the excess weld flash could enhance the power of the explosion.
The ARC Automotive Class Action
Lawyers in the firm’s Consumer Fraud & Commercial Litigation and Personal Injury & Product Liability Sections have teamed with other firms nationwide to represent the class. Beasley Allen lawyers working on this case, in addition to Demet, are Dee Miles, Clay Barnett, Tom Willingham, Mitch Williams, and Dylan Martin.
Class members filed suit against ARC Automotive, Kia Corporation and Kia America, Inc. (KIA), Hyundai Mobis Co., LD, and Mobis Parts America, LLC (Mobis), among other parts makers. ARC is a global manufacturer that produces airbag inflators for automotive airbag products for many leading vehicle makers, including Kia, FCA (formerly Chrysler), Hyundai, General Motors, and Ford, among others.
The plaintiff class alleges that all defendants have known about the dangers and cite seven events involving ARC inflators, including two where vehicle occupants were killed. The plaintiffs also claim that ARC covered up its use of ammonium nitrate.
The class represents those owning or leasing vehicles nationwide that are known to have used ARC inflators. Safety experts say vehicle owners and those leasing vehicles are often unaware that their vehicle has an ARC airbag inflator. The plaintiffs say they would not have purchased or leased the affected vehicles if they had known they were equipped with a dangerous airbag part.
The class action is In re ARC Airbag Inflators Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 3051, Case No. 22-CV-03285-ELR, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.
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