(WASHINGTON) -- The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a lawsuit against Mazda Motor of America charging that the car manufacturer should have installed lap and shoulder belts in the rear aisle seats of some of its minivans can go forward in California courts.
The case was brought by the family of Thanh Williamson, who in 2002 was sitting in her 1993 Mazda minivan in the second-row seat, her lap belt firmly attached, when the van collided with a Jeep. She was thrown into a jackknife position and died from internal bleeding.
Her family wants to sue Mazda, believing that the lap-only seat belt was insufficient and that the company was negligent for not installing a lap and shoulder belt in that rear seat. Williamson’s husband and daughter were also riding in the van, but were sitting in seats equipped with both shoulder and lap belts. They both survived the accident.
Mazda argued that federal regulations at the time allowed the company the choice of which belt to install and therefore the car manufacturer was immune from such state lawsuits.
But a unanimous 8-0 court ruled Wednesday that federal regulations did not prohibit the state lawsuit from going forward.
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