While preemption arguments continue to find their way before judges, some Court’s have refused to accept the application of the defense. One significant case occurred recently in O’Hara v. General Motors Corporation. In that case, Mr. and Mrs. O’Hara and their daughter were riding in a 2004 Chevrolet Tahoe when it was involved in a rollover accident. During the rollover sequence their daughter was partially ejected from the passenger side window and sustained serious injuries to her arm. The O’Haras filed suit, and alleged in part, that the vehicle was unreasonably dangerous and defective because it had failed to incorporate safety glass or advanced glazing to contain occupants in foreseeable rollovers.
The ensuing litigation resulted in a significant appellate ruling on the issue of whether FMVSS 205, relating to automotive glass, preempted the common law suit brought by the O’Haras against General Motors. After considering whether the right to bring suit under existing state law would conflict with or stand as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress, the Court found that FMVSS 205 did preempt the common law suit for failure to use advanced glazing on the side windows of the 2004 Tahoe. This ruling has been touted as a major victory for those who promote automotive safety. This decision is one of the most consumer friendly preemption rulings in recent history, and is viewed by many as properly limiting preemption to areas where it has been specifically mandated.