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Do Minimum Safety Standards Insulate From Lawsuits?

Posted: Thu Nov 04, 2010 2:41 pm
by brian
Nov 4, 2010: Mazda Seat Belt Case May Divide U.S. Supreme Court Over Minimum Standards
Hearing arguments today in Washington about whether meeting minimum standards shield vehicle manufacturers from suits, several justices hinted they would let accident victims sue even when automakers meet minimum federal standards set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA. “A minimum by definition gives manufacturers options,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor said.
A 2000 decision said federal law shields automakers from state law claims that manufacturers didn’t move quickly enough to install air bags in the years before they became mandatory in new cars.
NHTSA sets minimum standards, and how and when automakers meet those standards and whether they choose to exceed those standards is core of the case.
The lawyer for the Williamson family, Martin Buchanan, argued that automakers “should be held accountable for the choices they make.”
The case is Williamson v. Mazda Motor of America, 08-1314.