Faulty airbags should attract punitive damages from carmakers: Supreme Court
Faulty airbags which do not deploy during road accidents could lead to punitive damages from the concerned carmakers. Supreme Court made this observation on Thursday while hearing a case of Hyundai Creta SUV, which failed to deploy airbags during a crash on Delhi-Panipat highway. The Supreme Court said that the failure of a car manufacturer to provide an airbag system should be subject to punitive damages which can have a deterrent effect.
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“The failure to provide an airbag system which would meet the safety standards as perceived by a car buyer of reasonable prudence, in our view, should be subject to punitive damages which can have a deterrent effect. And in computing such punitive damages, the capacity of the manufacturing enterprise should also be a factor," said a bench of Justices Vineet Saran and Aniruddha Bose.
The bench said that at the time of buying a new car, an owner will assume that the airbag would open automatically in case of collision. It also said that it's not fair to expect the owner to be an expert in physics calculating the impact of a collision on the theories based on velocity and force.
Supreme Court made these observations while hearing an appeal filed by Hyundai Motor India Limited against an order of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) which dismissed the appeal sustaining the compensation awarded by the State Commission. Hyundai had appealed after a complaint made by a car buyer regarding faulty airbag in his Hyundai Creta 1.6 VTVT SX model of the SUV.
The Creta SUV, which was purchased on August 21, 2015, came with two front airbags. The SUV met with an accident on the Delhi-Panipat highway on November 16, 2017, resulting in substantial damage to the car. The complainant also suffered head, chest and dental injuries which he claimed was due to non deployment of airbags at the time of the accident.
The state commission awarded a compensation of ₹two lakh for medical expenses and loss of income, Rs.50,000 for mental agony, and ₹50,000 as the cost of litigation. The state commission also said that failure in replacing the vehicle of the appellant will also attract an interest of seven per cent per annum of the value of the vehicle from the date of default.