Com­pen­sa­tion only if de­fect is proven in airbags: Na­tional Com­mis­sion

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The Na­tional Con­sumer Dis­putes Re­dres­sal Com­mis­sion has ruled that car com­pa­nies can­not be asked to com­pen­sate for death or in­jury de­spite airbags de­flat­ing af­ter an ac­ci­dent un­less a man­u­fac­tur­ing de­fect is proved.

A bench of judges BC Gupta and VK Jain of the apex com­mis­sion said this while dis­miss­ing a pe­ti­tion filed by the wife of Vi­jay Sax­ena (38), a busi­ness­man who died when his new Skoda Oc­tavia col­lided with a truck. His fam­ily sought hefty com­pen­sa­tion from the car man­u­fac­turer, say­ing the death was on ac­count of the airbag mal­func­tion­ing.

The widow told the court that the com­pany had as­sured them that the car was of a par­tic­u­lar stan­dard qual­ity and grade. How­ever, when the ac­ci­dent took place, the “safety mea­sures as pro­jected were not prop­erly ac­ti­vated on ac­count of a man­u­fac­tur­ing de­fect, which re­sulted in the burst­ing of the safety bag. The death was only on ac­count of such de­fect.” The pe­ti­tioner stated that such de­fects had been re­ported from time to time in other ve­hi­cles as well and in many cases the com­pa­nies had de­cided to re­call the ve­hi­cles to re­move the de­fects.

How­ever, the bench was of the view that she could not prove the man­u­fac­tur­ing de­fect in the ve­hi­cle – with­out which no com­pen­sa­tion could be or­dered. “Even the com­plainants stated in one para­graph of the com­plaint that the airbags did not in­flate but in a sub­se­quent para they stated that the airbags busted. Had the airbags not func­tioned at all, it could be imag­ined that there was some de­fect,” said the court.

The car com­pany, in its de­fence, stated that the per­son seated next to the driver sur­vived the crash, mean­ing the airbag sys­tem did func­tion dur­ing the col­li­sion. It fur­ther stated that the com­plainants had not pro­duced any ex­pert opin­ion in sup­port of their ver­sion that the car suf­fered from man­u­fac­tur­ing de­fect.

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