Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Honda admits failing to report deaths, injuries.

The AP (11/25, Krisher) reports from Detroit that Honda “is admitting that it failed to report more than 1,700 injury and death claims about its vehicles to U.S. safety regulators, a violation of federal law.” Honda, “in statements issued Monday, also said it became aware of the omissions in 2011, yet it took about three years to take action.” The Japanese car maker “said it filed documents detailing the lapses on Monday with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which had demanded an explanation on Nov. 3.” The agency “said at the time that Honda may have failed to report incidents related to air bags made by Takata Corp. as well as other defective parts.” Honda “should get the maximum fine for ‘massively’ violating the law, said Clarence Ditlow, head of the Center for Auto Safety, a nonprofit watchdog group,” and he added that because Honda “hid more claims than it reported,” NHTSA “should refer the case to the Justice Department for a criminal investigation.”
        Bloomberg News (11/25, Plungis, Green, 1.94M) reports that eight of the 1,729 unreported claims involved the Takata airbag ruptures, though the automaker said NHTSA was aware of the incidents. Honda “blamed the underreporting on ‘inadvertent data entry or computer programming errors’ that spanned 11 years.” The Center for Auto Safety “accused Honda last month of not reporting at least two injury-and-death incidents related to air bags” and “called for the U.S. Justice Department to conduct a criminal investigation.” Bloomberg notes that this violation “would be one of the biggest in history and could lead to a fine of $35 million.”
        The New York Times (11/25, Tabuchi, Subscription Publication, 9.9M) reports that the audit, “commissioned by Honda and conducted by an outside law firm, was done several years after an employee noted the problem and regulators later raised the issue.” The admissions “have the potential to bring millions in federal penalties and were made during a separate investigation by regulators of faulty airbags made by the Takata Corporation that Honda has linked to five deaths and dozens of injuries.” The House Energy and Commerce Committee is planning a hearing on December 3 “to investigate the faulty airbags, a person briefed on the committee’s activities said.”

        Similar coverage included the Detroit (MI) News (11/24, Shepardson, 504K), USA Today (11/24, Woodyard, 9.86M), the AP (11/25, Krisher), Reuters (11/25), the Washington (DC) Post (11/24, Halsey, 4.9M), and NBC News (11/25, 3.76M). 

Monday, November 24, 2014

        Chrysler heeds demand to speed up Jeep-recall work. The New York Times (11/23, A22, Jensen, Subscription Publication, 9.9M) reports Chrysler Group on Friday told NHTSA in writing that it agreed with the agency’s assertion – made a day earlier in a letter from Deputy Administrator David Friedman – that some 1.6 million Jeep vehicles recalled due to a deadly fire hazard in rear-impact crashes weren’t being fixed fast enough, and the automaker promised to improve. NHTSA has said the 1993-1998 models of the Grand Cherokee and the 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty SUV are dangerous because “the placement of the gas tank behind the rear axle makes them vulnerable to fast-moving fires in rear-impact accidents,” the Times explains, adding that a minimum of 56 deaths are believed to be tied to the problem. About 139,000 of the 1.6 million vehicles have been fixed, Scott Kunselman, a Chrysler senior vice president, told NHTSA in Friday’s letter.

        KEPR-TV Pasco, WA (11/21, Vedder, 824) reported on the “quandary” facing local Grand Cherokee owner Drew Dillon, who two weeks ago received a “really alarming” recall notice from Chrysler. He called the company, twice, “only to learn that the necessary part for a fix is not available,” KEPR said. He also “worries if he should even be driving, especially after what he says an operator with [NHTSA] told him.” Dillon recalled, “She informed me that as a driver and owner of this vehicle it should be parked.” 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

        Defective Takata airbag grows into global problem for manufacturer. The New York Times (11/19, Gough, Soble, Tabuchi, Subscription Publication, 9.9M) reports that “What began as a largely American problem for Takata is taking on ever-wider proportions, confronting drivers and regulators in multiple countries with differing legal systems and attitudes toward automobile safety.” Last week, the first fatality of a non-US driver was linked to the Japanese airbag manufacturer’s defects thus confirming that faulty inflaters, made at North American plants, ended up in overseas vehicles. “The problem is that nobody knows how far it’s going to go — how many millions more vehicles,” said Koji Endo, an expert on the Japanese automobile industry at Advanced Research Japan. Adding to the company’s troubles, Federal regulators in the US on Tuesday urged automakers to recall cars nationwide that contain driver’s-side airbags made by Takata. Takata executives are scheduled to testify on Thursday at a Senate hearing on auto safety. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Airbag settlements keep details from other victims of accidents

DETROIT (Bloomberg) -- Confidential settlements over defective Takata Corp. airbags are sealing off relevant information that other victims could use to pursue injury claims.

The accords make financial sense for the settling parties, but Takata and other defendants, including Honda Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, get an extra advantage in keeping damaging information out the hands of outsiders interested in suing them.

The quick, secret deals -- a cornerstone of product liability litigation across industries -- help explain why, years after the first recalls, so much remains unknown about defects linked to four deaths in the U.S. The few cases filed have generally been resolved before victims’ lawyers acquired evidence.

Five of a dozen lawsuits reviewed by Bloomberg News were settled before information could be revealed in courts. One of the cases is being reviewed for a possible settlement, while one is in mediation and another was dropped. None has gone to trial.

The lack of information deepens the confusion surrounding an escalating crisis. Recalls of more than 11 million U.S. vehicles -- 17 million globally according to Reuters' estimates -- by several automakers have left drivers unsure about whether they’re at risk. Safety advocates blame the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for not doing enough in its probe of Takata while a federal grand jury has sent the company a subpoena to turn over documents and explain the defects with its safety devices.

To read the entire article, click here.

Girls on the Run 2014 5K Run

Last Saturday at Millersville University was the Girls on the Run 2014 Fall 5K Run. Atlee Hall was one of the sponsors of the race. We also had a booth with information and treats for the girls before and after the race. We thank all of our volunteers - Maria, Crystal, Marlee, Neve and the Jackson family - Jaime, Olivia, David and Owen.

Girls on the Run® was established in 1996 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Girls on the Run® curricula, the heart of the program, provides pre-adolescent girls with the necessary tools to embrace their individual strengths and successfully navigate life experiences. The earliest version of the 24 lesson curriculum was piloted in 1996 with the help of thirteen brave girls. Twenty-six girls came the next season, then seventy-five. In 2000, Girls on the Run International, a 501c3 organization was born.

To read the complete article, click here.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Takata subpoenaed by Federal grand jury.

In continuing coverage of the exploding Takata airbags, the company has received a subpoena to produce documents before a Federal grand jury in New York. The US Senate has scheduled a hearing on the issue to be attended by officials from Takata, Honda, and NHTSA. Also, a pregnant woman killed in Malaysia during July when she was hit by shrapnel following a car crash has been connected to the defect.
        The CBS Evening News (11/13, story 5, 0:25, Pelley, 5.08M) reports that Takata “confirmed today that it is the subject of a criminal investigation in the United States over defective air bags that it made for Honda cars.”
        Reuters (11/14, Shiraki, Saito) reports that Takata revealed that it was being investigated during a meeting with financial analysts. Reuters reports that Takata CEO Shigehisa Takada said in a statement posted on the company’s websites, “Our whole company will strengthen our quality management structure and work to prevent an incident from occurring again.”
        Bloomberg News (11/14, Horie, 1.94M) reports that Hitoshi Sano, Takata’s investor relations head, said in a phone interview that he did not know when the company received the subpoena.
        The Detroit (MI) News (11/13, 504K) reports that the Senate Commerce Committee plans to hold a hearing on the matter on November 20 and will be chaired by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL). Aside from criticizing the companies, Nelson also said NHTSA “has not been right upfront, forward-leading and aggressive to protect the public.” The News also quotes Takada Shigehisa’s statement, in which he said “We will continue to fully cooperate in the inquiry or request of the relevant authorities.”
        Similar coverage was provided by the AP (11/13), the Detroit Free Press (11/14, 974K), Bloomberg News (11/12, 1.94M), the New York (NY) Times (11/14, Tabuchi, Subscription Publication, 9.9M), USA Today (11/13, 9.86M), Business Insider (11/14, 2.38M), and Law 360 (11/14, 18K). 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Atlee Hall Thanks Our Veterans

On November 11, 2014, Atlee Hall participated in the Injury Board’s First Annual Day of Action, to benefit the Lebanon Veteran’s Administration Medical Center and to honor our local veterans who were injured while serving our country.

The entire firm participated in honoring more than 120 veterans by sponsoring and volunteering at two Bingo parties held at the Center. Refreshments were purchased and served, and dozens of donations of “comfort items”, including socks, t-shirts, puzzles, blankets, and models were collected, packaged, and brought to the Center for the veterans to enjoy.

To read the entire article and see some additional pictures, click here.  

Takata makes changes to airbag chemicals.

In continuing coverage of the exploding Takata airbags, Reuters (11/13, Shiraki, Lienert, Klayman) reports that the company has said that it has altered the chemicals used in its airbags, though it still refuses to admit that there was a problem with the original chemicals. The officials who spoke to Reuters says that there have yet to be any reported issues with the new chemicals.
        The Wall Street Journal (11/13, Kubota, Subscription Publication, 5.62M) also reports on the formula change.
        Bloomberg News (11/13, Trudell, 1.94M) reports that Takata released a statement regarding the New York Times story in which former Takata employees allege that the company conducted secret tests on the airbags. Takata said, “The Times article confuses multiple events occurring at different times and for different purposes and thereby tells a story that is simply untrue.”
        The New York (NY) Times (11/13, Tabuchi, Subscription Publication, 9.9M) reports that the former Takata employee told the Times that Takata had confused the events, saying “We tested inflaters in 2004 from junk cars, scrapyards, for rapidly disassembling inflaters, not a cushion-tearing problem.” The employee continued, “There were two bags where the inflater showed signs of fracture.”
        Reuters (11/13) reports that Honda has issued a recall over the airbags for 170,000 more vehicles, but none of the new recalls involve cars sold in the US.

        Several outlets reported on previous news that Chrysler would begin replacing the recalled Takata airbags in December, including Edmunds (11/13, 314K), High Gear Media (11/12), and Leftlane News (11/13, 8K). 

Toyota to recall nearly 362,000 vehicles, including Camry.

The Wall Street Journal (11/12, Kubota, Subscription Publication, 5.62M) reports that Toyota Motor Corp. announced on Wednesday that it is preparing to recall around 361,800 vehicles world-wide including the Camry sedan, mostly in Japan and Europe. Toyota is recalling about 170,000 Camrys, including 120,000 in Europe and around 60 in the US, made between March 2011 and August 2014 due to defects involving faulty ball joints that may have been damaged during shipment and may cause drivers to lose control of their vehicles, according to the article. Toyota has not received any reports of crashes or injuries related to the glitches, spokeswoman Kayo Doi said in an email. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Emails show GM ordered switches nearly two months before recall.

The AP (11/10) reports from Detroit that emails “showing that General Motors ordered a half-million replacement ignition switches nearly two months before telling the government of a safety recall will be heavily scrutinized by federal prosecutors, who are investigating GM’s conduct, according to legal experts.” The email chain, “released Monday by an attorney suing GM, again raises questions about how forthcoming GM has been with safety regulators and lawmakers, as well as a GM-funded investigation into the defective switches by former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas.” The email chain “from December through February shows that a contract employee for GM inquired about the parts on Dec. 18, 2013, and ordered them from Delphi the following day, in preparation to replace parts on 500,000 to over 700,000 vehicles,” but GM “did not report a safety defect to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration until 51 days later, on Feb. 7, 2014.”
        The Detroit Free Press (11/10, Gardner, 974K) reports that GM CEO Mary Barra “said she learned in late December when she headed the company’s global product development group that GM employees were reviewing safety issues related to the Chevrolet Cobalt,” but “she didn’t learn that there would be a recall until near the end of January.”

Honoring Our Vetrans

On November 11, 2014, Atlee Hall participated in a Day of Action, to benefit the Lebanon Veteran’s Administration Medical Center and to honor our local veterans who were injured while serving our country.
The entire firm participated in honoring more than 120 veterans by sponsoring and volunteering at two Bingo parties held at the Center. Refreshments were purchased and served, and dozens of donations of “comfort items”, including socks, t-shirts, puzzles, blankets, and models were collected, packaged, and brought to the Center for the veterans to enjoy.
While the donations and sponsorship were much appreciated, it became obvious fairly early that what meant most to the Vets was the simple presence of the volunteers and the fact that employees of a law firm, with whom no one had any prior association, gave their time to make Veteran’s Day special. Let us be clear—these are all brave, heroic individuals injured while serving our country—ranging in time from World War II to the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. Most, if not all, were injured during the prime of their lives. Why would a group who has sacrificed so much to protect our liberty and freedom find it so difficult to conceive that others would want to honor and support them in return? To the Lebanon Veterans, an unpretentious smile, a pat on the back, help marking a number on a Bingo card, and a compassionate gesture meant their sacrifices were appreciated and thus, meant the world to them.
Yet, after speaking with some of the firm’s participants a day later, it is apparent that WE benefitted more from the experience than we could ever give. Our employees consistently remarked that they would participate again; in a heartbeat. Everyone knows why. St. Francis of Assisi once wrote “For it is in giving that we receive”. There is not a more appropriate adage.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Takata believed to have conducted secret tests on airbags.

In continuing coverage of the exploding Takata airbags, the New York (NY) Times (11/7, Tabuchi, Subscription Publication, 9.9M) reports in a front page story that two former Takata employees are saying that the company “secretly conducted tests on 50 airbags” in 2004. The Times reports that the employees claim that two of the 50 airbags tested had their steel inflaters crack during testing, “a condition that can lead to rupture.” However, the employees say that Takata did not inform safety regulators and instead “Takata executives discounted the results, and ordered the lab technicians to delete the testing data from their computers and dispose of the airbag inflaters in the trash.” The Times reports that Honda has previously said “said it was assured by Takata in 2004 that the episode in Alabama, which involved a 2002 Honda Accord, was an anomaly.” Honda spokesman Chris Martin said in a statement, “This is a serious allegation about actions taken by Takata. It is our intention to determine whether anyone at Honda has any evidence that these claims are credible.” ,
        Other outlets reported on the Times’ coverage, including USA Today (11/6, 9.86M), Reuters (11/7), and The Oregonian (11/7, 690K).
        Honda expands airbag campaign to recall. Bloomberg News (11/7, Trudell, 1.94M) reports that Honda upgraded its campaign to replace Takata airbags in the US from a safety campaign to a formal recall. Bloomberg reports that NHTSA told car owners of affected vehicles that they should take their vehicles to have the airbags replaced.
        The AP (11/6) reports that the upgrade “comes just a few days after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration demanded information in an investigation from Honda about its air bag recalls.”
        Similar coverage was provided by the Wall Street Journal (11/7, Rogers, Kubota, Subscription Publication, 5.62M), Bloomberg BusinessWeek (11/6, 2.52M), and Reuters (11/7).