SW Legal studies in Business

State Products Liability Law May Not Conflict with Federal Regulations
Description

South Carolina high court held that a state law products liability suit against an auto maker for its choice of window could not stand because the window used was in compliance with federal auto safety standards that specify the kinds of windows to be used.

Topic Torts
Key Words

Products Liability; Car Accident; Federal Standards; Window

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Cromer, who was intoxicated, was driving a Ford F-150 pickup too fast when he went off the road and rolled the truck. James Priester, who was sitting in the rear seat of the truck, not wearing a seatbelt, was ejected and died at the scene. His mother sued Ford in products liability, contending that the windows in the truck should have held James inside the truck. Because the windows broke, James was ejected, which contributed to his death. Ford cited Regulation 205 concerning the kinds of glass car makers are allowed to use. Since Ford was using approved glass, federal rule preempted the liability claim under state law. The trial court dismissed the suit. Jamesís mother appealed.

Decision

Affirmed. The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard setting requirements for windows that may be used in motor vehicles preempt state law products liability. The suit was based solely on Fordís choice of windows; its choice was in conformity with federal regulation. Allowing a state law claim would undermine the purpose and objective of the federal regulation.

Citation Priester v. Cromer, ---S.E.2d--- (2010 WL 2990978, Sup. Ct., S.C., 2010)

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