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Centerville woman sues after air bag malfunction severs her trachea and vocal chords

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Posted at 9:44 PM, Nov 11, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-11 23:47:30-05

SALT LAKE CITY - A Centerville woman has joined the legal fight against the car companies and air bag manufacturers she says is responsible for her major injury.

Randi Johnston, 25, was severely injured on her way to work in North Salt Lake. As she rear-ended the car in front of her, the air bag in her 2003 Honda Civic EX failed to activate properly.

"It literally blew up in her face," said her father, Fred Johnston. "She was hit in the face with shrapnel."

That shrapnel severed Randi Johnston's trachea and vocal chords. After weeks of recovery in a nearby hospital, Johnston slowly began to recover, but quickly realized she had lost the ability to speak.

"Frustrated, scared, anxious," Randi Johnston writes on a notepad for her mother to read. "Every time I look in the mirror, I relive this nightmare. This experience has forever changed me."

Johnston's father said the accident should have never happened in the first place.

"This was completely preventable," he said. "Had the air bag been replaced in her car when she took it in for service, she would have been fine."

Her father says his daughter bought the car used last March, but, before the purchase, the previous owner took the car in for a multi-point inspection. However, he says the dealership missed something major.

"Either dealership staff has not been properly trained, or Honda is not communicating the importance of this issue to their dealerships," said Kevin Dean, a lawyer from Motley Rice LLC, the firm representing the family.

Dean says Honda first sent out emails to replace Takata air bags in a number of Honda models in June of 2014, but those notices only affected dealerships in some states. However, by December of 2014, Dean says Honda sent out a new email stating that cars in all states should now have the air bags replaced on the spot.

So, when the previous car owner brought the car in last March, Dean contends the local dealership should have spotted the model needed an air bag recall, but it didn't.

Now, Randi Johnston and her family are paying the price for the error.

"A piece of me died on the side of the freeway that day," Randi Johnston writes. "I will never forget those moments."

For a full list of cars up for air bag recalls, click here.