Court Rules That FMVSS 205 Does Not Preempt State Law
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled yesterday
that Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 205 does not preempt
a common-law claim made against General Motors Corp. (GM) "for failing
to use advanced glazing in the side windows of the Tahoe." The case
originally was filed by Chad and Michelle O'Hara, whose daughter
was partially ejected from a 2004 Chevrolet Tahoe during a rollover
accident, resulting in serious injuries.
The O'Haras originally filed the case in the U.S. District Court
for the Northern District of Texas, alleging "common law theories
of strict liability and negligence for the defective design, manufacture
and marketing of the Tahoe's side windows." They claimed that the
tempered glass in the vehicle's sidelites was dangerous and that
they should have been equipped with "advanced glazing."
The U.S. District Court granted summary judgment in favor of GM
on the grounds that the suit is preempted by FMVSS 205, which allows
either tempered glass or advanced glazing to be utilized in motor
However, circuit judge Edith Brown Clement ruled that the marketing
and failure-to-warn claims made by the O'Haras(in addition to the
safety claim) are not preempted by FMVSS 205 and that common law
in the state of Texas makes GM's actions negligent. Likewise, while
the vehicle met the requirements of FMVSS 205, the court ruled that
FMVSS 205 does not preempt state laws requiring vehicle designs
not to be defective.
The court cites Sprietsma v. Mercury Marine (2002) as a precedent.
In that case, the Coast Guard's decision not to require propeller
guards (based on FMVSS 208) was determined to be preempted by state
law (at the decision of the Supreme Court), noting that the decision
"did not preempt a common-law suit claiming negligence for failing
to install such a safety device."
for the full text of the court document.
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