Supreme Court Opens Mazda to Seatbelt Lawsuits

The US Supreme Court has announced that a Mazda Motor Corp. unit must defend against claims made by the family of a woman killed while riding in the back of a minivan made by the Japanese manufacturer.

The automaker can be sued for not equipping seats with a shoulder strap, ruling that companies aren’t immunized by a federal regulation that allowed lap-only belts in some rear seats prior to 2007. The decision, which was reached by unanimous vote, explained that regulators only wanted to set a minimum standard and not an absolute benchmark.

This will most likely generate a change in the ruling for much of the nation, as every lover court considering the issue will conclude that the federal decision preempts similar suits made by accident victims, all over seatbelt design. This is a very serious issue for all automakers as more than 1 million cars on the road in 2008 had at least one lap-only strap.

“This case really reaffirms the importance of state tort law in achieving greater vehicle safety,” said Martin Buchanan, a San Diego lawyer for the family of Thanh Williamson, who died in the 2002 crash, according to Bloomberg.

It's important to reemphasize that the three-point seatbelts didn't become a legal requirement in all seating positions until 2007. Before that, 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.
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About the author: Mihnea Radu
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Mihnea's favorite cars have already been built, the so-called modern classics from the '80s and '90s. He also loves local car culture from all over the world, so don't be surprised to see him getting excited about weird Japanese imports, low-rider VWs out of Germany, replicas from Russia or LS swaps down in Florida.
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