US Supreme Court ruling allows auto industry to be sued for seatbelt design

Article by Christian Andrei, on February 25, 2011

A ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court exposes the auto industry to new lawsuits related to seatbelt design after it concluded that Mazda Motor Corp. has to defend against claims raised by the family of a woman killed while riding in an MPV minivan.

In a unanimous decision, the justice said that compliance with a 1989 federal seatbelt regulation doesn't insulate a company from claims that it should have installed a safer type of belt. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that regulators meant to set only a minimum standard. 

The ruling directly covers cars made before 2007, signifying a change in the law encompassing much of the country. All the lower courts that considered the issue concluded that the federal rules preempted suits by accident victims over seatbelt design. Following the ruling, automakers’ shares declined. 

Ford Motor Co. shares dropped by as much as 4.38% to $14.44, the lowest price since Nov. 3. Ford fell 43 cents, or 2.8%, to $14.80 at 10:27 a.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. Meanwhile, General Motors Co. declined by 48 cents, or 1.3%, to $35.30.

The ruling scales back a 2000 decision that said federal law shields carmakers from claims under state product- liability law that they should have acted more quickly to install air bags. In a concurring opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said that lower courts had read too much into that opinion. [via autonews - sub. required]

Topics: united states

If you liked the article, share on:


Login or Create new account to add a comment!


Aston Martin and Red Bull Racing teamed up for the first time in creating what looks like one of the most ferocious beasts in history. The British car manufacturer has...
by - October 24, 2016
German premium carmaker Audi is reportedly planning to buy back around 25,000 Audi Q7 SUVs powered by its 3.0-liter V6 TDI engine in the United States. The buyback should compensate...
by - October 24, 2016
Wondering what the Fantasy Gift in Neiman Marcus’ annual Christmas Book this year could be? If you are generous enough to give others or yourself this special present, then behold...
by - October 24, 2016
It wasn’t too long ago when Maserati took the wraps off what appears to be the most gorgeous concept coupe ever made. The Alfieri coupe premiered at the 2014 Geneva...
by - October 23, 2016
Many have been excited with the impending arrival of the next-generation Jeep Wrangler and the new 2019 Jeep Grand Wagoneer, which is slated to be the brand’s new range-topping model....
by - October 21, 2016