Honda and Takata could be in legal hot water after the automaker requested a design change to the supplier's airbag inflators in 2009 without notifying the government. According to internal documents obtained by Reuters, the updated parts had extra vents to reduce the force directed occupants if a rupture occurs.

Automakers generally need to tell the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about any safety-related changes to their vehicles, but Honda argues to Reuters that the disclosure wasn't necessary in this case. The company wanted the changes to the parts to "protect against the possibility of future manufacturing errors – it was not an acknowledgement of a larger design flaw in the inflators," Honda spokesperson Chris Martin told Reuters. The revised components started going into some Honda models in 2011.

However, a jury might not agree with Honda's position, and a lawyer could argue the company had a responsibility to report the alterations. There's already a pending class action lawsuit against automakers and Takata for violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, and there are many more from individuals. Among those is the case of a pregnant woman in Malaysia who died from a rupturing airbag.

An investigation by the Independent Testing Coalition found three factors for the inflators'' rupturing. The use of ammonium nitrate is part of the problem, but the inflator's assembly doesn't keep moisture from reaching the chemical. If a vehicle is in a high humidity area, the danger is even worse. When they combine, these issues make the explosions more likely. Takata allegedly knew about the problem as far back as 2000 but hid the failures. Emails even reportedly showed workers joking about changing the data.

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