Takata Airbag Linked to Rental Customer Death

A screen shot of Rick Schostek, executive vice president of Honda North America, at the Senate committee hearing on the Takata air bag recall.
A screen shot of Rick Schostek, executive vice president of Honda North America, at the Senate committee hearing on the Takata air bag recall.

A woman who died in a Los Angeles-area car crash last September has been named as the eight victim killed by defective airbags made by Takata Corp. Honda and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced last week that shrapnel from the exploding airbag caused her death.

The woman, Jewel Brangman, rented a 2001 Civic from Sunset Car Rental in San Diego and was driving in Los Angeles County when the crash occurred. The driver’s airbag inflated with too much force and ejected metal fragments, causing serious injuries that resulted in her death.

Brangman’s father filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Honda, Takata and Sunset Car Rental.

The lawsuit accuses Sunset Rental of renting the vehicle when it knew about the airbag recall but failed to make the repairs. In June 2014, the 2001 Civic was part of a recall issued by Honda and NHTSA for defects and problems in the Takata driver-side frontal airbag system. Sunset Rental never communicated the potentially dangerous condition of the vehicle to Brangman when she rented it, according to the lawsuit.

“Honda confirmed on Friday that the eighth death linked to a faulty airbag occurred last September in California,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) during a Senate committee hearing on the Takata airbag recall. “This was a rental car from Sunset Car Rental in San Diego that never made the repairs after the recall. I along with Sen. Schumer and others have legislation pending that would prohibit a car from being rented at a rental car agency until open safety recalls are remedied.”

Honda said that the 2001 Civic was purchased by Sunset Rental at an auction. According to Honda, it sent notices of the airbag recall to Sunset Rental, but the repair was never made.

“We notified the auto auction that owned the vehicle before the rental car agency bought it and we also notified the rental car agency,” said Rick Schostek, executive vice president for Honda North America, at the Senate committee hearing on the Takata airbag recall. “Neither of them took the repair. It’s to our everlasting regret that had an impact in this incident.”


  1. Jason [ July 2, 2015 @ 10:37AM ]

    Great story of how a small mom and pop operation goes out of business.... Very sad for everyone involved...

  2. KRIS [ July 7, 2015 @ 09:58AM ]

    Recalls are a free correction by a dealership. If they had the notice sent to them all they had to do was take it in and fix the problem. I think the rental car company is more blame than Honda or the maker of the airbag since the problem was recognized back in the early 2000's but none of the owners bothered to have it fixed or at least checked. Tragedy happened because the rental car co. gave a vehicle that wasn't safe. Things like this give all rental car companies a bad rep. Some will actually come and swap out a car if a recall is issued while you are renting it. Sometimes it pays to pay a little extra for a big name rental company, if not just for the peace of mind.

  3. John [ February 11, 2018 @ 09:16PM ]

    Back in July 2016 I received a recall notice for my 2008 Lincoln MKX regarding a Takata airbag issue. The recall notice indicated this issue could result in death and/or great bodily harm or serious injury. For a year and a half I've been trying to get this issue addressed with negative results with my local Lincoln dealership (Island Lincoln), finally prompting me to contact Lincoln corporate in Dearborn, Michigan. So I write to Lincoln's CEO expressing my concern for this recall, the possibility of death or serious harm per the recall notice, my continued email correspondence with my local Lincoln dealership, and seeking some type of assurance regarding this issue.

    What I received was a response from Lincoln advising me not to use the front passenger seat of my vehicle to preclude an issue. Mind you I've been using the front seat of my Lincoln MKX for the past year and a half, where my wife sits, and this is the first time I've been informed not to use the front passenger seat of my own automobile. In addition, the recall notice says nothing about not using the front passenger seat and Lincoln's website indicates the issue of the airbag isn't a safety issue and can be used safely until repaired. So which is it? If my wife and I go out to eat with another couple, does she have to squeeze into the back seat with the other couple for safety reasons, as per Lincoln and I drive by myself, or can she ride up front in safety according to Lincoln's website? Is Lincoln lying or misleading? I have documentation to back this up.

Comment On This Story

Comment: (Max. 10000 characters)  
Please leave blank:
* Please note that every comment is moderated.


Newsletter: Sign up to receive latest news, articles, and much more.

Read the latest

Auto Focus Blog: A blog covering fleets, auto rental and the business of cars

6 Takeaways from the 2018 International Car Rental Show

Technological solutions are finally moving from reality to theory, peer-to-peer platforms are being redefined, China has the biggest room for growth, while Sixt’s U.S. aspirations have only just begun.

The Irony of Customer Service in the Digital Age

Sure, any company would jump at the chance to use technology to reduce labor costs. But it also comes with some big, red, flashing warning lights.

Market Forces Driving Car Rental in 2018

An analysis of the conference calls of Avis Budget Group and Hertz Global Holdings reveal trends and initiatives involving fleet right sizing, pricing, ancillary revenue opportunities, and renting to ride-hailing drivers.

Job Finder: Access Top Talent. Fill Key Positions.