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A Whistleblower Courage Can Save Lives

Company whistleblowers can be paid millions of dollars for exposing their corrupt bosses

Friday, July 6, 2018 - Blowing the whistle on your employer could not only save lives but also make you rich. Takata Inc. employee Mark Lillie, a top engineer, along with two co-workers came forward to expose the deadly Takata airbags for what they really were when corporate executives covered up their deadly defect. The three were awarded $1.7 million under the Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act for their efforts in alerting government officials of the deadly safety defect in Takata airbag propellent canisters. The Whistleblower Act encourages those in the automobile industry to report those who violate auto safety laws. Whistleblowers, in general, can receive up to 30 percent of the amount of the fine that the government collects in excess of $1 million.

Lillie told the government that Takata executives had made the decision in 1999 to replace the existing propellant chemical, Tetrazole, with the cheaper but more unstable and explosive ammonium nitrate. The decision by Lillie to risk his career and turn in his employer did not come easily. It was not until he and his wife saw the deaths from exploding Takata airbags being reported on the news that the couple knew that coming forward with what they knew was the right thing to do and could save lives. Lillie provided the US Department of Justice, the FBI, and the media with technical data, emails, and identified witnesses. To date, roughly one half of the hundred million or so affected motor vehicles have complied with the recall mandate to have the deadly Takata airbag replace.

As it turns out, ammonium nitrate becomes unstable due to environmental conditions such as high heat or humidity and can explode sending razor-sharp shards of its metal propellant canister throughout the passenger cabin of an automobile with the speed and force of a hand grenade. Twenty-three people are known to have died from bleeding to death after having the carotid artery in their neck severed. Hundreds of serious injuries like blindness, broken necks, and traumatic brain injuries have occurred to those lucky enough to remain alive.

In another whistleblower case, David Kester, a manager for Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis, blew the whistle on his employer and told those at the US Department of Justice of the wrongdoings of executives and sales reps at the company in illegally marketing anti-cancer drug Tasigna, compromising the trust of those who rely on the specialty pharmacies for their life-extending medication. Kester was awarded a percentage of the government's fine against Novartis and received around $12 million.

Please visit the NHTSA website and enter your Vehicle Identification Number to check if your car or truck is subject to the largest automobile recall in US history. If you own one of the vehicles subject to the Takata airbag recall, government officials and automobile dealers urge you to immediately stop driving a park your vehicle until a mobile airbag replacement teams can come out and replace the defective airbags. The airbags replacement and the service is free of charge. The company will make a loaner vehicle available if they do not have the parts to replace the airbag immediately on hand.

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Onder, Shelton, O'Leary & Peterson, LLC is a St. Louis personal injury law firm handling serious injury and death claims across the country. Its mission is the pursuit of justice, no matter how complex the case or strenuous the effort. Onder, Shelton, O'Leary & Peterson has represented clients throughout the United States in pharmaceutical and medical device litigation such as Pradaxa, Lexapro and Yasmin/Yaz, where the firm's attorneys held significant leadership roles in the litigation, as well as Actos, DePuy, Risperdal and others. The Onder Law Firm has won more than $300 million in four talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuits in St. Louis. Law firms throughout the nation often seek its experience and expertise on complex litigation.