Honda Motor Co and Japanese parts maker Takata Corp are being sued in the United States over the death of a pregnant Malaysian woman, killed in a collision in July involving her 2003 Honda City, according to a Bloomberg report. The car contained a defective Takata-manufactured airbag inflator, centre of a series of massive worldwide recalls since the issue first surfaced in 2008.

Law Suk Leh, 42, died when a metal fragment from a ruptured driver’s airbag sliced into her neck in the accident – in which she was driving at around 30 km/h when another vehicle hit her at a junction – according to the lawsuit filed by her father Law Ngee Chiong at a Miami federal court. Her daughter, delivered after the mother’s death, passed away three days later.

Although the incident happened in Malaysia, lawyer Kevin Dean said that the suit was filed in the US because “the defective inflator at issue” was produced at Takata’s now-defunct plant in Georgia. A malfunctioned conveyor at the factory exposed the propellant tablets left on the belt to moisture. Honda said that such moisture could cause the explosives to become unstable, detonating with excessive force during a collision.

The lawsuit has been combined with around 24 airbag personal injury and death claims before US district judge Federico Moreno in Miami for pre-trial rulings and evidence gathering. The lawyers filed a combined complaint on Thursday, claiming that Takata, Honda and other manufacturers hid airbag defects for years.


Suk Leh’s death is the fifth linked to defective airbags and, besides being the first to occur outside of the United States, is the first to involve the driver’s side airbag; according to US senator Bill Nelson, another 105 people have been injured so far.

Following the incident, Honda Malaysia issued a recall involving 15,734 vehicles locally to replace the driver-side airbags – the models affected by the recall are 15,612 units of the Honda City sold in 2003 and 2004 as well as 122 units of the fully-imported Honda Jazz sold in 2004.

Honda has also since expanded its ongoing recall to another 170,000 units of the Jazz, City and Civic in Asia and Europe, raising the total number of its vehicles affected by the Takata airbag recall to nearly 10 million units.

While involving Takata-made airbags yet again, this recall is different than that carried out in June, which the 2003 Honda City was also involved in. Then, Honda Malaysia recalled the City as well as the 2001-2003 Honda Stream, 2002-2003 Honda Jazz and 2003 Honda Accord to replace front passenger airbags.