On October 22, 2008 the Court of Appeals of California, Fourth Appellate District, Division Three, held that FMVSS 208 preempted the plaintiffs claim that a vehicle with a lap-only seat belt in the rear inboard passenger seat was sold in a defective and unreasonably dangerous condition. Specifically, the court held that
to the extent plaintiffs contend defendants are liable for failing to install a lap/shoulder seat belt in the minivan’s middle row inboard seat, their claim is barred by the version of FMVSS 208 in effect when defendants manufactured the minivan.
The case is Williamson v. Mazda Motor of America, Inc., Case No. G038845 and the opinion is published at 167 Cal. App. 4th 905. The California Supreme Court denied review on February 11, 2009, and plaintiff filed writ of certiorari on April 22, 2009. The case number before the Supreme Court is No. 08-1314. Here is the current version of FMVSS 208.
Now, the United States Supreme Court has issued as order inviting the Solicitor General to file a brief in the case expressing the views of the United States.
Products liability lawyers know that preemption is a hot topic and one that has a significant impact on the ability of consumers to pursue product liability claims. I will follow this case and let you know if the Supreme Court grants certiorari.