Henrico family sues Honda over faulty airbags

Guddi Ratore
Guddi Ratore

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - A Henrico County family is going after one of the largest automakers in the world. They are suing Honda for $75-million in Richmond Circuit Court. The lawsuit claims a defective airbag took the life of a 33-year-old mother in front of her three young children.

For the last three years Honda's been recalling and inspecting vehicles just like the 2001 Honda Accord. The company admits some of the airbags are defective. According to federal regulators- there are 11 known serious injuries and one death tied to this recall. We may have uncovered one more. A fatal accident from 2009 in the west end.

It was Christmas Eve- Guddi Ratore and her three kids had just wrapped up their last minute shopping. They were headed to grandma's house.

Driving west on Farmington in her 2001 Honda Accord. 9-year-old Saj was in the passenger seat, 10-year-old Simran and her 3-year-old sister in the back. A mail truck pulled out in front of Ratore near the intersection with Condover Road. It was a minor fender bender- there's not much damage to her Honda, but Guddi Ratore died.

The family says her airbag exploded in her face.

"This is a really tragic case," said Elizabeth West, the family's attorney. "There's a large laceration to the left side of her neck and it extended into the neck to the point where her arteries were severed."

Ratore bled to death, in her Honda, in front of her children. In some Hondas, the airbag is deploying with too much pressure, essentially exploding the steering wheel, shooting metal fragments at a person.

This is video from a crash test for a 2001 Honda at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in Virginia. When we slow it down, you can see this is how the airbag is supposed to respond. A far cry from what a steering wheel looks like after a defective airbag deploys.

In the lawsuit, the family is seeking 75 million for damages, sorrow and mental anguish. They alleges "Honda knew and had notice that the airbags in (Ratore's vehicle) were defective."

The lawsuit claims Honda knew of airbag problems as early as 2004. There was also the death of an 18-year-old in Midwest City, Oklahoma. Ashley Nicole Parham died after a fender bender in her high school lot seven months before Ratore died.

"Our allegation is that the defective airbag caused the death to our client and caused the losses to this family that really, you can never put back," said West.

In court records, lawyers for Honda "deny the allegations."

In a statement on its website the company says it is, "aware of several incidents." related to this recall and that its recalled airbags could result in "injury or fatality."

Ratore's lawyer tells NBC12 the family wanted this story to be told so other people will learn about this recall and take it seriously. The case could go to trial later this year.

Honda has recalled nearly a million vehicles because of this problem. As of last April, the automaker still had not located more than 2,400 of the defective airbags.

Honda Spokesperson Chris Martin would not comment on pending litigation but did say, "We absolutely encourage anyone who has received written notification from Honda about the recall to take their car to a Honda dealer as soon as possible. Please take it seriously."

To see if your vehicle is part of the recall:

Safety Hotline at 888-327-4236 or 800-424-9153

You will need your VIN number (Vehicle Identification Number)

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