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In our March column, “Supreme Court Speaks (Again) on Preemption of Lawsuits,”1 we reported on the Supreme Court’s decision in Williamson v. Mazda Motor of America Inc.2 holding that a California lawsuit attacking the rear aisle seat lap belt as defective in design was not preempted even though the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) allowed manufacturers a choice of installing either a lap belt or a lap-and-shoulder belt. The Court reasoned that the choice or option was not a “significant objective” of the federal regulation dealing with rear seat restraints. On the other hand, in Geier v. American Honda Motor Co.,3 the Court held that a “no-air bag” lawsuit attacking the manufacturers’ choice of a lap-and-shoulder belt in the front seat, one of several options permitted by FMVSS 208, was preempted. Williamson distinguishes Geier as a case where the restraint options were a “significant objective” of the regulation.

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