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U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court Could Deadlock in Seat-Belt Pre-emption Case

Posted Nov 4, 2010 10:38 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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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.

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