Most folks don’t spend a great deal of time worrying about the type material that goes into the windows of their automobiles. I suspect they see that as the auto maker’s job. But in the event of an accident, those windows could mean the difference between life and death. Last month, a ruling came down in a federal court case that will assist folks who are injured in motor vehicle crashes in their lawsuits against car makers. It will make it easier to hold car makers accountable for failing to use the safest type of window materials in the side windows of passenger vehicles.
In the case, a federal judge in Arizona rejected a car maker’s argument that federal law preempts tort claims alleging that a car was defective because its side windows were made of tempered glass, which shatters on impact, rather than laminated glass, which holds together in the event of a crash. Laminated glass helps to prevent ejections. It keeps occupants in the vehicle.
It’s believed that this ruling in the case of Bernal v. Daewoo signals a potentially major shift in the law of automobile safety preemption. A number of courts have disagreed about whether window-glazing claims are preempted, creating a deep split of authority on this point. But the tide may well have turned when the U.S. Supreme Court decided Williamson v. Mazda earlier this year. This was seen as a seminal ruling that rejected federal preemption in a case involving a different – but similar – automobile safety standard.
The Williamson decision by the High Court should remove any doubt that window-glazing claims are not preempted by federal law. The Bernal court agreed, signaling that the law in this area will increasingly favor auto-injury victims. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 205 is “nothing more than a minimum federal safety standard” that “permits manufacturers to improve the safety of their vehicles by installing additional protections.” There is nothing about this regulation that could possibly be undermined by a state court lawsuit. Lawsuits over product defects will actually enhance federal objectives by creating a strong incentive for car makers to make their cars safer.
Source: Public Justice
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