Will US Supreme Court’s Revival of Seat Belt Defect Lawsuit Against Mazda and Window Defect Case Against Ford Pave the Way for More Florida Auto Products Liability Cases?

The US Supreme Court may have just opened the door to more Florida auto products liability plaintiffs. Today, the high court ordered a lower court to take a second look at its ruling barring a lawsuit blaming Ford Motor Co. for window design defects that allegedly proved fatal during a 2002 rollover crash.

James Lloyd, a passenger in the 1997 F-150 pickup, died after he was ejected from the vehicle, which went off the road and rolled over several times. Lloyd’s mother, Mary Robyn Priester, filed an auto products liability lawsuit against Ford accusing it of breach of warranty because of its use of “inappropriate glazing materials” on the truck’s windows.

The trial court granted the car manufacturer’s motion for summary judgment on the grounds that the products liability claim was pre-empted by the motor vehicle federal safety standard that gives automakers the option to decide what kind of tempered glass to use on side windows. The state’s Supreme Court upheld this decision. Now, however, the US Supreme Court, in light of its ruling last week to reinstate the seat belt defect lawsuit against Mazda, is saying that the lower court should reconsider its decision to bar the auto products liability case against Ford.

In the wrongful death case against Mazda, the Supreme Court said that the lawsuit against the car manufacturer over its lap belt design can proceed. The defective seat belt lawsuit claims that Mazda’s failure to install lap-and-shoulder belts in the back seat of a 1993 minivan caused the death of Thanh Williamson during a 2002 car crash.

Citing federal safety regulations, Mazda wanted the wrongful death case dismissed on the grounds that federal vehicle safety regulations pre-empt such lawsuits. The Supreme Court said that this was not the case.

Florida Auto Products Liability
Car manufacturers can be held liable if an auto defect contributed to a victim’s death. Examples of common, serious auto defects and safety issues:

• Seat belt defects
• Sudden unintended acceleration
• Air bag issues
• Poor roof design
• Engine defects
• Tire blowouts caused by tread separation or worn tires
• Window defects
• Seatback collapse
• SUV rollover issues

Suit Against Ford to Be Reconsidered, The Wall Street Journal, February 28, 2011
High Court Revives Mom’s Suit Over Ford Windows, Courthouse News, February 28, 2011
Supreme Court: California family can sue Mazda over seat belt death, DailyNews, February 23, 2011
Williamson v. Mazda Motor of America, Supreme Court.gov (PDF)

Related Web Resources:

Supreme Court of the United States

Products Liability, Nolo

More Blog Posts:
Five People Killed in West Palm Beach After Tire Blowout Causes SUV Rollover, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, October 20, 2008
$8.4M Palm Beach County Motorcycle Accident Verdict Awarded In Florida Wrongful Death, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, December 14, 2010
Our Miami auto products liability lawyers represent clients throughout Palm Beach County, Broward County, Miami-Dade County, and St. Lucie County, Florida.

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