Dashi v. Nissan (CA1 6/13/19)

The court rules that “implied obstacle preemption” precludes a tort claim for failure to equip a car with safety devices not required by the government. But the analysis is fact-and-circumstance intensive, focusing on the particular devices at issue here. Whatever other gadgets future plaintiffs decide in retrospect that they should have bought will apparently need to be litigated separately.

Plaintiff sued Nissan because its vehicle did not have certain braking systems, available in other cars, that she alleged rendered it defective and unreasonably dangerous. Nissan moved for summary judgment, arguing that NHTSA regulations — which make such systems optional — pre-empt the claim. The trial court granted the motion.

The Court of Appeals affirms, holding that the claim is impliedly preempted. “A federal agency may trigger implied obstacle preemption when it refuses to adopt a specific equipment standard in furtherance of a federal regulatory objective, thus deliberately leaving manufacturers with equipment alternatives.” The court recounts at length the NHTSA’s study of the devices and its decision that requiring them would inhibit the development of the technology. Then in recounts at more length the federal DOT’s “express views on implied preemption.” It concludes that allowing the common law to require the devices would create an obstacle to the full accomplishment of federal objectives.

The court finishes by distinguishing Plaintiff’s cases in favor of others. There is of course quite a number for both parties to choose from.

(Opinion: Dashi v. Nissan)