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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been asked to reconsider the wording of a regulation on car door locks that might affect state tort laws.

The regulation in itself is good as it makes sure that car doors, including sliding side doors, remain closed in the event of a crash.

However, the language is problematic.

The regulation, scheduled to take effect on September 1, 2008, contains language which could deprive individual states from holding slack manufacturers liable.

“Many states have gone beyond the federal government’s safety requirements and taken extra steps to protect residents,” said Jon Haber, chief executive officer of AAJ, formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. “Eliminating state safety laws and their ability to hold wrongdoers accountable is a dangerous giveaway to the big car companies that could ultimately make cars less safe.”

“Although AAJ thinks that preamble language has no substantive effect, the language must be revised to remove any reference to preemption of state tort law,” said AAJ President Lewis S. “Mike” Eidson, in a letter delivered to the NHTSA and dated March 23, 2007.

Apparently the NHTSA failed to provide notice to interested parties that the proposal could preempt state law prior to adoption.


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