DETROIT (Bloomberg) -- Consumers can’t immediately pursue a lawsuit against Takata Corp. and multiple carmakers claiming loss of vehicle value tied to airbag recalls while awaiting a decision that would combine more than 50 cases before one judge.
U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King on Monday stayed proceedings in a proposed class action filed in Miami federal court and denied a plaintiffs’ request for immediate disclosure of evidence. A panel of federal judges will decide after a Jan. 29 hearing whether the Florida case will be combined with the others and, if so, which judge would oversee the lawsuits.
Waiting for the panel to combine the cases is more “efficient” than handling motions in individual suits, King said at a hearing in Miami on Monday.
The lawsuits were spurred by a series of recalls, now up to more than 10 million vehicles in the U.S. equipped with Takata airbags. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said Takata’s air-bag inflators may malfunction if exposed to consistently high humidity by deploying with too much force, shooting metal pieces into drivers and passengers.
Four deaths in the U.S. and one in Malaysia have been linked to air-bag shrapnel.
Takata is facing more than 55 proposed class actions in the U.S. by customers seeking payment for alleged losses in vehicle value connected to the recalls. Honda Motor Co. is named in almost all of them. Other defendants named in multiple suits include Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp., Chrysler, BMW and General Motors Co.
Plaintiffs’ lawyers and the defendants are seeking to have all the suits combined in one federal court. The plaintiffs have suggested federal courts in cities including Miami, Detroit, New Orleans, Houston and Los Angeles as possible sites for the multidistrict litigation.
Honda and the other automakers said in a Nov. 26 filing that Pittsburgh would be the “most logical venue” because two principle Takata subsidiaries and all the U.S. defendants have headquarters or operations nearby. Coordination of the cases before one judge is “plainly warranted,” lawyers for the carmakers said.
At least nine cases have been filed this year in U.S. courts claiming deaths or personal injuries caused by exploding Takata airbags. Two of these claims involved deaths, one over a California man who died in 2013, the other of a Florida woman who died in October.
Some of these death and injury suits may be combined for evidence-gathering before the federal court selected to oversee economic loss claims, attorney Peter Prieto said in an interview before Monday's hearing.