Auto manufacturers who had the misfortune of incorporatingfaulty airbags made by Takata Corp. into theirvehicles are facing individual lawsuits as well as a consolidatedclass action. In an interesting legal maneuver, the automakers haveasked a federal judge in the Southern District of Florida to haltthe litigation for at least six months. Their reason? Theautomakers are claiming that the U.S. National Highway TrafficSafety Administration (NHTSA) has “primary jurisdiction” overclaims brought by consumers.

The motion requesting the stay—filed on July 17—pertains only tothe consolidated class action complaint filed by consumers and notto lawsuits filed on behalf of those who were injured or died. Froma legal perspective, it represents an unusual strategy in massivelitigation involving an automotive defect, but it does appear to bea practical argument. “A stay will avoid needless waste ofresources on discovery that cannot be effectively conducted whilethere are so many questions about the root cause,” the automakerssaid in the motion.

The stay could put on hold any potential compensation forconsumers, who are seeking damages for the diminished value oftheir vehicles, including expenses they might have paid foralternative modes of travel while waiting for their vehicles to berepaired. And the wait for repairs may get even longer. Manydealers say there’s a delay of several months in getting parts toreplace or repair the faulty airbags.

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Rosalie Donlon

Rosalie Donlon is the editor in chief of ALM's insurance and tax publications, including NU Property & Casualty magazine and NU You can contact her at [email protected].