BUSINESS
10/27/2014 10:35 pm ET Updated Dec 27, 2014

U.S. Consumers Sue Takata Over Airbags; Class-Action Status Sought For Larger Payout

(Adds detail on lawsuit)

Oct 27 (Reuters) - Takata Corp, the Japanese company whose potentially defective airbags have led to the recall of millions of vehicles, was sued on Monday by consumers who claimed Takata and several car manufacturers defrauded them by concealing crucial information.

The lawsuit, filed with a U.S. District Court in Florida, is believed to be the first in the United States to seek class-action status on behalf of consumers nationwide.

If that status is granted, it could subject Takata to a larger payout in a trial or settlement than if vehicle owners were forced to sue individually.

The federal lawsuit is at least the third filed against Takata in the last week over alleged airbag defects. The other lawsuits were brought on behalf of individual owners.

A Takata representative in the U.S. could not immediately be reached.

The lawsuit also names car manufacturers as defendants, including Toyota and Honda. Representatives for those companies in the U.S. also could not immediately be reached.

U.S. safety regulators are investigating whether Takata airbag inflators made from 2000 to 2007 were improperly sealed or subject to other defects.

At least four deaths and dozens of injuries have been linked to faulty Takata airbags, and their potential to rupture and spray metal shrapnel at vehicle occupants.

Takata "had a duty to disclose these safety issues because they consistently marketed their vehicles as reliable and safe," the lawsuit said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has urged owners of an estimated 7.8 million Chrysler, Ford , General Motors, BMW, Honda, Mazda , Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan, Fuji Heavy's Subaru and Toyota vehicles to replace their airbags

The case in U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida is Craig Dunn et al vs. Takata Corporation et al, 14-cv-24009. (Reporting by Dan Levine in San Francisco and Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Ken Wills and Kenneth Maxwell)