Posted Nov 04, 2010 03:38 pm CDT
The U.S. Supreme Court could deadlock 4-4 in a case that asks whether car makers are shielded from product liability lawsuits for injuries caused by lap-only seat belts.
Justice Elena Kagan is not participating in the case, which considers whether suits are pre-empted by federal regulations, according to the Associated Press, Dow Jones Newswires (sub. req.) and Bloomberg news. The remaining justices appeared evenly divided during oral arguments.
A tie vote would leave in place a lower court decision favoring Mazda Motor Corp., the maker of a minivan involved in a fatal car crash. The passenger who was killed,Thanh Williamson, was riding in a back seat that was equipped only with lap belts, as permitted by federal law.
The case is Williamson v. Mazda Motor of America.