Family gets $2.7M settlement after man killed by exploding airbag

The crash happened in the area of Piedmont Drive in June 2022.
The crash happened in the area of Piedmont Drive in June 2022.((Source: WSFA 12 News))
Published: Feb. 9, 2023 at 12:16 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The family of a Montgomery man has been awarded a $2.7 million settlement after it was revealed that he was killed by a defective Takata airbag in a June 2022 crash.

Tocarious Johnson’s death was initially being investigated as a homicide after authorities believed he was shot. However, police said an autopsy showed the 20-year-old died from his injuries he sustained when the 2010 Dodge Charger he was driving left the roadway and crashed.

Beasley Allen and The Vance Law Firm represented Johnson’s family in securing the settlement. According to a news release, lawyers uncovered evidence that the driver’s side door airbag inflator “ruptured violently during the accident, much like a hand grenade, shooting shrapnel from the metal inflator” toward Johnson.

The plaintiffs sued vehicle manufacturer Chrysler, B&H Investments and 2nd Chance Auto Sales, where Johnson purchased the vehicle on Feb. 19, 2022. During that time, lawyers said the Dodge Charger was subject to two recalls issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“NHTSA issued the recalls over safety concerns with the driver’s and passenger’s side airbag inflators. According to the recalls, the inflators could rupture due to excessive internal pressure when the airbags deployed. Defendant 2nd Chance Auto Sales did not complete the recalls on the Dodge Charger it sold to Johnson.”

Lawyers said in a statement

Lawyers said B&H Investments conducted maintenance on Johnson’s vehicle multiple times following the recalls. They added that B&H failed to act or warn Johnson about the recalls.

“Mr. Johnson didn’t have to die, but the defendants failed him time and again,” said Beasley Allen attorney Chris Glover. “The problems started with a defective product that should have been made safer. The problems grew as the defendants passed up each opportunity to do the right thing and inform the consumer of the dangers described in the recall. Instead, a young man was robbed of his life, and he leaves behind grieving family and friends.”

The attorneys argued that the defendants were required by the Alabama Extended Manufacturer’s Liability Doctrine to warn customers of the recalls but failed to do so, contributing to Johnson’s death.

According to NHTSA, tens of millions of vehicles with Takata airbags are currently under recall as they can explode when deployed. The organization said the defective airbags have killed 24 people in the United States.

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