US Supreme Court Clears Way For Additional Seat Belt Laws

The United States Supreme Court ruled today that automakers can be sued over product liability, even though the vehicle met the safety requirements of the time.

Seat belt laws are always very controversial and throughout the years, there have been numerous court cases that have proven this to be true. Well, there is a new case that was just settled in the United States Supreme Court that ruled that automakers could be sued over product-liability complaints, regardless of whether or not the vehicles met federal vehicle safety standards in place at the time.

To simplify it a bit, the US Supreme Court has stated that automakers can be sued over a safety matter, even if the vehicle met the safety requirements of the time.

This decision had been given out in the case of Williamson vs. Mazda Motor of America. This was a case in which the family of a woman who died in a crash sued Mazda, as her 1993 MPV lacked three-point belts for her seating position. The family argued that if the MPV had these belts, she would have survived.

The accident took place in 2002, when Thanh Williamson was killed when the MPV was involved in a head-on crash with another vehicle. The occupants that were using the three-point belts survived the wreck, but she did not. The family took the case to the California courts, stating that Mazda should have provided three-point seatbelts; despite the fact the law did not require them when the car was produced.

So, even though Mazda obeyed the laws of the time and passed every safety regulation for that year, this new ruling will make automakers, such as Mazda, more prone to lawsuits over these issues.

Once this decision was made, the stock market reacted negatively. Ford, Mazda and many other automakers were down one or two percent. Mazda has stated that the ruling is disappointing, but the company will continue to defend itself in the court system.

[The Wall Street Journal, sirwiseowl]

Sign-up to our email newsletter for daily perspectives on car design, trends, events and news, not found elsewhere.