• May 25, 2010
The U.S. Supreme Court is set to rule on whether or not current federal regulations protect automakers from being sued under state product liability laws. According to The Wall Street Journal, justices will examine a California lawsuit that claims that Mazda should be held responsible for the death of a passenger in a 1993 MPV minivan. The passenger was riding in the middle seat, wearing a lap belt, when an accident occurred. The belt caused serious internal injuries that eventually led to death. The plaintiff's argument is that by not installing three-point seatbelts in the center row of the vehicle, Mazda failed to do everything in its power to protect the occupants of the vehicle.

It's important to note that three-point seatbelts didn't become a legal requirement in all seating positions until 2007. Before that time, regulations established in 1989 said that three-point belts were only required in outboard seats, so Mazda built the MPV to conform to the laws in place when the vehicle was built and sold.

The lawsuit was originally rejected after Mazda pointed to a 2000 Supreme Court case in which Honda was unsuccessfully sued after injuries occurred in a 1987 Honda Accord. In that case, the plaintiff said that Honda was responsible because it did not install airbags in the vehicle.

The Supreme Court will hear the case in the 2010-2011 term starting in October.

[Sources: The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg | Image: Chip Somodevilla/Getty]


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  • 28 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      "Rollin in MPV's, every week we made forty G's. Cash rules everything around me, C.R.E.A.M., get the money, dollar, dollar bills y'all. "

      I bet Wu-Tang didn't see this happening or they'd probably try to sue Mazda too.

      America. Sigh.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Those lawsuits are just horrid. It seems that some people just don't want to accept responsibility anymore and lay the blame on others.
        • 4 Years Ago
        i tried to run down a parking lot hit and runner, he went the long way and i took the short cut. in the end what was i going to do against a car of idiots, esp when i was on foot? well i threw the only thing i could find at them, hoping to at least dent the car or maybe smack a window. that 'thing' was my cell phone :( ... heat of the moment. FL doesn't require front plates, which is most of what i saw of the vehicle
        • 4 Years Ago
        That X5 driver was unbelievable. Speaking of which, I witnessed a hit and run in a Carl's Jr last Friday, but didn't get my camera out in time to catch the plate. The person realized what they had done, probably from the crunch sound, and left immediately.
        • 4 Years Ago
        ooh don't get me started on parking lots...I've had a few good dents in my doors from idiots who don't know how to work their cars. This vid has gotta be the worst though - the only reason I'm attaching a link is because it happened near where I work, and also that I just can't believe someone would leave after this...

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_O60m2wj7Y
        • 4 Years Ago
        Amen. What's more concerning is that it's getting worse. Anyone who's taught for a long time has seen this coming. Kids born in the 80's and early 90's (sorry) are progressively worse at accepting responsibility.

        To me, we're in the midst of a cultural narcissism that is going to get a lot worse. Anyone hear about the 18-year old Ferrari driver who killed his cousin doing 100 mph in Huntington Beach? His family is suing the city for $5 million for not preventing it. Seriously.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Totally agreed. It starts with kids and ends with corporations. Nobody is responsible for their own actions anymore. Walmart isn't responsible for their own carts so if they cut back on staff and leave the carts all over the parking lot it "isn't their fault". People are so bloody lazy that if they let go of the cart and it goes running across the parking lot and runs into someone or their vehicle they don't feel any responsibility because somehow that is the grocery store or Walmart's fault. Some people even leave their carts in the "handicapped spaces" because it is so much easier for someone in a wheelchair to return it for them. I can't count how many people I have told off in a parking lot. Personally I tend to park a bit farther from the door to make sure I am away from the idiots.

        As for hit and run it used to be considered a crime. Now people think it is some kind of cool badge of honour to have "gotten away with" pretty much any crime. They will post cellphone footage on you tube to brag.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Obsolutely agree here. I wish there was a responsibility movement. I'm teaching my kids, but at least 50% of their peers are oblivious to moral responsibility. The same goes for parking lot accidents. My car is starting to look like a golf ball, and not one time has someone left a note saying sorry.
      • 4 Years Ago
      So lemme get this straight.

      This car was built in 1989. It meets all federal safety requirements of its time.

      Now it's 2010. Federal safety requirements have changed.

      An accident occurs. Someone dies that might not have had the car met safety requirements it was not designed to meet.

      And so, according to plaintiff, the carmaker can be sued for not engineering its cars to meet safety requirements made twenty years in the future, that the carmaker didn't even know about when it made the car because they weren't introduced yet.

      Does that strike anybody else as not just frivolous, but completely insane?

      "Didn't do everything in its power" my ass. If every automaker had to do "everything in its power" to protect people in a collision we'd all be driving around in Bradley fighting vehicles.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Remind me to sue Chrysler for not installing airbags in my 1958 model if I should get injured.
      • 4 Years Ago
      It met the standards of that year end of case. My mind is boggled by the fact it has reached the Supreme Court. Yes I feel bad someone died but the simple fact should stand that the person would of died right away if not for that middle seat belt. Obviously the people are just looking for cash and not really looking for any type of change in laws. Mazda should of slapped on a counter suit where if they win the case the other people have to pay their legal fee's.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Ugh, give me a freakin break. Ouch, I tripped! I'm suing the shoe maker, then the sidewalk installers! Everyone will pay for my own stupidity!
      • 4 Years Ago
      If I ever get in an accident, I'm going to sue because my car didn't come with a 6-point harness, door bars, a roll cage, and a HANS device for every seat. Clearly my car manufacturer wasn't doing everything it could to protect me.
      • 4 Years Ago
      stupid lawsuit-happy people.
      • 4 Years Ago
      So if someone driving an antique car like say a Model T gets killed in a accident then can the family members of the deceased sue Ford for not putting stuff like seat belts,crumple zones etc in the Model T?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Since there was a collision, I submit the driver of the minivan did not do everything possible to protect their passengers.

      Additionally, seeing as this is a frivolous lawsuit, I also submit that the parents of the plaintiff did not do everything to protect the public from their offspring, as this type of litigation has led to all sorts of societal ills (increased insurance costs, increased product costs, fraudulent claims). So the parents should be sued for billions of dollars.
      • 4 Years Ago
      which admittedly would be awesome. I'd get one thats a hybrid.
      • 4 Years Ago
      How does this even make it to court? What the **** is up with that? No wonder it takes so long for court hearings, considering how much time and money they waste.
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