U.S. Supreme Court Ruling: Lawsuit Against Ford Motor Company Can Proceed

U.S. Supreme Court Has Ruled That A South Carolina Consumer Can Proceed Against Ford Motor Company For Ford’s Use Of Defective Windows

In Priester v. Ford Motor Company, the United States Supreme Court ruled against Ford Motor Company and overturned a South Carolina Supreme Court ruling which had dismissed a consumer’s claim that Ford used defective windows in its 1997 F-150 pickup truck.

James Priester was killed in a crash in 2002 when he was ejected from the side window of his 1997 Ford F-150 pickup truck. Priester’s mother brought a lawsuit alleging that the truck was defectively designed because its side windows were made of tempered glass which shatters on impact. The lawsuit alleged that laminated glass should have been used in the Ford truck because it is safer and holds together on impact and is designed to prevent ejections from vehicles.

The South Carolina Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit and ruled that the claim alleging defective windows was preempted by federal law because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had adopted standards for the type of glass to be used by American automakers. The US Supreme Court overruled the South Carolina court and found that the NHTSA regulations were aimed at setting minimal safety standards and that automakers have a choice to use safer alternatives.

In 2002, the NHTSA considered requiring laminated glass in the side windows of all vehicles, however, the proposal was rejected. The NHTSA concluded that it would be too expensive to require auto manufacturers to use the safer alternative. Nevertheless, the agency cited the significant safety benefits of laminated glass and clearly permitted its use in vehicle windows along with the less safe alternative: tempered glass.

The US Supreme Court ruled that plaintiffs can seek damages from auto manufacturers for defective designs when automakers fail to go above the minimum safety standard established by the NHTSA. In this instance, Priester introduced evidence that laminated glass was significantly more safe than tempered glass and the use of laminated glass would have prevented the death of James Priester.

American auto manufacturers frequently resist the implementation of safer car designs. The simple and prevailing reason is the additional costs associated with safer vehicles. American auto manufacturers consistently choose profits over the safety of consumers. American auto manufactures have used defective seatbelt designs, unsafe tempered glass, and vehicle designs which are not crashworthy despite newer and safer technologies available to them.

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