Seatbelt lawsuits more likely after Supreme Court of the United States ruling

edited August 2012 in General
The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has ruled that Mazda Motor Corp. must defend itself in the courtroom against a seatbelt lawsuit that once would have been an exemption under federal law, states Automotive News. Supreme Court of the United States found the lap-only rear belt of the 1993 Mazda MPV may be held liable for the internal injuries that killed Trahn Williamson in 2002 in Kane County, Utah. As a result of this Supreme Court of the United States ruling on seatbelt regulation, automakers can now be sued for any accident injury or death that can be traced to the lack of two-point rear seatbelts in cars older than 2007, when they were non-standard. Article resource - Supreme Court exposes auto industry to seatbelt lawsuits by Car Deal Expert.

Nationwide change in seatbelt regulation

Over 1 million U.S. cars in 2008 had at least one seat with only one lap belt in them, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration explained. The 2007 federal regulation that made it so accident suits about seatbelt design couldn’t go through making them exempt in lower courts. The 2000 Geier v. American Honda Motor Co. decision, which stated that federal law trumped state product liability regulation when it came to airbag installation, was also impacted by the new Supreme Court of the United States seatbelt law decision.

"This case really reaffirms the importance of state tort law in achieving greater vehicle safety," said Williamson family attorney Martin Buchanan.

Automaker shares dropped in price due to the Supreme Court of the United States seatbelt ruling. There was a 63 cent drop to $14.60 a share for Ford on the NY Stock Exchange. This was as of 1:01 p.m. There was a $1.58 drop in GM Co. to $34.19.

Ruling makes Mazda Motors 'extremely disappointed' with the nation

The SCOTUS ruling led to a statement being issued by Jay Amestoy who is Mazda’s United States V.P. of Government and Public Affairs. He said the flexibility of which seat belts to use will be maintained by the automaker that will “vigorously defend this automobile when the case heads back to trial court" this way with NHTSA. Policy will be interfered with in the Williamson suit. This is what Amestoy makes clear.

Yet Supreme Court of the United States Justice Stephen Breyer stated that Mazda's Geier case logic does not apply to seatbelt law. In the case of airbags, federal regulators allowed manufacturers to experiment with different systems. The safety wasn’t a concern with Geier ruling regulators and was instead focused on seatbelts being cost effect with shoulder straps. The new seatbelt regulation shows how significant safety is. The cost is not as important to the government.

"Unlike Geier, we do not believe here that choice is a significant regulatory objective," Breyer wrote.


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