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Supreme Court Allows Lawsuit Over Rear Seat Belts

By Orlando Personal Injury Attorney on January 27, 2011

The Supreme Court ruled recently that the family of a woman killed in a head-on collision may sue the manufacturer of the minivan she was traveling in for failing to install lap-and-shoulder belts. The Court’s decision was unanimous after Mazda, the maker of the minivan involved in the fatal crash, argued that the lawsuit should be dismissed as they had been in full compliance with federal safety regulations. Mazda said regulations allowed it to decide whether to install lap belts or lap-and-shoulder belts in rear seats. Mazda cited a similar Supreme Court ruling in 2000 that allowed automakers the option of installing airbags. In that case, Geier v. American Honda Motor Company, the Court ruled that federal regulations foreclosed the filing of injury litigation under state law by people who claimed the automakers had made the wrong choice.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote the majority opinion in the recent case and the 2000 decision, acknowledging that the two cases shared some similarities. However, he said that, “the differing goals of federal safety regulators required different results.”

The recent case involved the death of a woman in 2002. The suit claims she was riding in the back seat of a 1993 Mazda minivan and wearing a lap belt, the only restraint available, when it collided head-on with another vehicle. Other passengers in the minivan wore lap-and-shoulder belts and survived the crash, but the woman died from her injuries.

Orlando personal injury attorney James O. Cunningham has been following developments in this case with interest as it could affect personal injury cases here in Florida. Essentially, the Court is ruling that regardless of federal safety standards, Mazda and other automakers have a responsibility to make their vehicles as safe as possible.

If you or a close family member was riding in the rear seat of a vehicle that did not have lap-and-shoulder belts and suffered an injury in a collision, you may be entitled to damages. For a more complete explanation of the Court’s ruling, how it might apply to your case and answers to all of your questions, call Orlando personal injury lawyer James O. Cunningham today. You can schedule a free consultation by calling his law offices at 888-425-2004 or 407-425-2000 or filling out a brief contact form for a prompt reply.

James O. Cunningham

Since 1977, personal injury lawyer James Cunningham has provided effective legal advocacy to people who are injured through the negligent actions of another person or entity throughout the Central Florida area. He fights to obtain recoveries for his clients’ physical and emotional pain and suffering and pursues his clients’ personal injury cases with a commitment to excellence and impeccable preparation.

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