Lawsuit accuses Houston area dealer of not replacing recalled airbag

Woman permanently scarred now suing dealer

A woman severely injured during a car crash is suing the Ford Motor Company and a Brazoria County dealership over a recalled airbag she said should have been replaced long before the accident. According to the lawsuit, Sara Morgan suffered “life-scarring personal injuries” when a Takata airbag exploded during a June 2020 crash.

“There was a bright flash, and just looking down and seeing blood,” Morgan recalled about the moment of impact. “I just remember lying there getting worked on.”

Morgan lost her left eye and suffered hearing damage and deep cuts to her face when the airbag sent shrapnel flying through the car. Morgan was a passenger in the 2007 Mustang. The car was being driven by her then-boyfriend, Branson Roy. Crash reports and photographs submitted as part of the lawsuit show the impact was not severe, but enough to deploy the driver and passenger-side airbags.

“It’s very scary to think of because the thing that’s supposed to be protecting you is doing the opposite,” Morgan said.

What Morgan did not know at the time was the passenger side airbag was a Takata airbag and, according to the lawsuit, should have been replaced nearly two years before the accident. Court records read the car was brought to the Yaklin Ford dealership in Brazoria County in Oct. 2018 to have the airbags replaced and a state inspection conducted.

“We have evidence of what I call a systems failure,” said attorney Rob Ammons, who is representing Morgan. “They replaced the driver bag, but not the passenger bag.”

The National High Traffic Safety Administration, NHTSA, reports that 67-million Takata airbags have been recalled because they have the potential of exploding when deployed, sending shrapnel into the faces of drivers and passengers.

“Airbags are supposed to save lives not ruin them,” said Ammons.

According to Ammons, a call record from the Ford Motor Company shows the automaker’s Customer Relationship Center contacted the owner of the Mustang to let them know about the driver and passenger side airbag recalled in Oct 2018 after sending letters to the home. Ammons said at the time, Roy’s grandmother owned the Mustang, which she later gifted to her grandson as a graduation present. Ammons said that the record also shows Ford notified the dealership about both recalls and an appointment for the work was set.

Court records filed in the lawsuit read prior to this Mustang being brought in, “Yaklin Ford had replaced dozens of other defective inflators.” Ammons said dealership records show Yaklin ran the Mustang’s Vehicle Identification Number through Ford’s database of vehicle-specific information multiple times and that database showed open recalls for the driver and passenger-side airbags. However, Ammons said invoices presented during depositions show only the Mustang’s driver’s side airbag was replaced.

“It’s our job to get the vehicle there. It’s their job to make sure the recall work gets done,” said Ammons.

“Have you gotten an explanation as to what happened there?” asked KPRC 2 Investigator Robert Arnold.

“Other than, ‘We admit we made a mistake.’ There has been no explanation,” said Ammons.

After the accident, Morgan had to move back in with her family and still struggles with recovering from her injuries. She said she is still adjusting to blind spots and has problems with balance and depth perception, in addition to psychological trauma.

“I wouldn’t have been able to take care of myself the way I needed to,” said Morgan.

“You’ve lost some of your independence?” asked Robert Arnold.

“Yes,” said Morgan. “Nobody wants to be 21 and have, you know, the difficulties that I’m having to face now.”

The case has not yet been scheduled for trial.

An attorney for Yaklin did send KPRC 2 the following written statement:

“The thoughts and prayers of all of us at Yaklin Automotive Group go out to Ms. Morgan and her family for recovery from her injuries. We care deeply about the safety and well-being of all those who ride in and depend on Ford vehicles. Indeed, safety is our foremost concern. The airbag that injured Ms. Morgan was a Takata airbag. As is widely known, the Takata airbags installed in tens of millions of cars by Ford and other manufacturers were the subject of a federal recall. A special restitution fund has been established for that purpose, which we hope Ms. Morgan will benefit from. In the pending litigation, we are confident that the proper parties will be held accountable.”

After receiving this statement, we asked Ammons whether Morgan had filed a claim with the restitution fund. He sent us this statement:

“Sara Morgan has not made any claim with any Takata bankruptcy trust. Whatever happened to businesses, insurance companies and corporations that were willing to admit their mistakes and accept their responsibility? We certainly look forward to trial and getting Sara Morgan justice from a jury in Brazoria County.”

Calls to an attorney representing Ford in this lawsuit and an email to Ford’s media department seeking comment have not yet been returned.

About the Author:

Award winning investigative journalist who joined KPRC 2 in July 2000. Husband and father of the Master of Disaster and Chaos Gremlin. “I don’t drink coffee to wake up, I wake up to drink coffee.”