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Japan: Mitsubishi Motors braced for product liability case

Date: 14 Nov 2003

Mitsubishi Motors is due to face what, in Japan remains a relatively rare event, a product liability lawsuit, when they face charges that faulty design led to the death of a woman when a tyre rolled off one of its trucks.

The company denies that the accident was caused by error in the truck's production or design, and instead blamed faulty maintencance check-ups that left crucial bolts untightened.

Police raided the company's headquarters last month during the investigation of the death.

Around 50 instances of similar events, where tyres have fallen off the truck model 'The Great', have been admitted. Unlike such instances in other countries, the company did not carry out any kind of organised product recall, but instead carried out free inspections and changed parts in potentially affected vehicles.

There is not yet a tradition of serious penalties being levied against companies in Japan for product faults. The suit, being brought by the victim's mother, therefore faces an uphill battle to make a significant impact.

The suit follows a period during which the company has been found to systematically hide defects to avoid recalls. The discovery of this fact three years ago led to the recall of over a million vehicles.

A ruling on the current case is expected next year.

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