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Auto Safety Standards Not Specific Enough To Be Basis for Recall
Description Appeals court held that a recall of Chrysler cars sold with seat belts that failed certain safety tests was improper. The safety standard did not specify how the test was to be conducted. Government must give reasonable notice of such test details if it wants specific test methods to be followed.
Topic Administrative Law
Key Words Reasonable Notice; Safety Recall
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts NHTSA sued Chrysler to force a recall of 91,000 vehicles that were alleged not to be in compliance with a safety standard regarding seat belt construction. The seat belts failed certain strength tests. Chrysler protested that the reason for the failure was the way NHTSA did the tests. In similar tests by Chrysler, they passed the safety test. District court granted the government recall request; Chrysler appealed.
Decision Reversed. NHTSA admits that the safety standards did not specify exactly how the seat belt test was to be conducted, it only set the results that were required to be passed, which Chrysler could pass when using acceptable methods. When there is no safety defect at issue, "a manufacturer cannot be found to be out of compliance with a standard if NHTSA has failed to give fair notice of what is required by the standard. And absent notice, there can be no recall based solely on noncompliance." Chrysler cannot be required to recall cars for noncompliance with a standard "if it had no notice of what NHTSA now says is required under the standard."
Citation U.S. v. Chrysler Corp., 158 F.3d 1350 (D.C. Cir., 1998)

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