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Dashi v. Nissan N. Am., Inc. - 6/13/2019

Court of Appeals Division One holds Arizona state law tort claims for manufacture of vehicles without automatic breaking technology are impliedly preempted by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s refusal to set formal standards for automatic braking technology.

A driver was involved in a collision with a Nissan sport utility vehicle and suffered injuries.  Automatic breaking systems, including forward collision warning and crash-imminent breaking to break or steer the vehicle automatically to avoid a crash or minimize the force of the crash, were in existence at the time of the Nissan’s manufacture but had not been equipped by the manufacturer.  The injured driver asserted Arizona common-law tort claims against Nissan for design defect and negligence, alleging that her injury would not have occurred if Nissan had equipped the vehicle with automatic braking systems.  Nissan moved for summary judgment, arguing that the driver’s claims were preempted by federal law.  The superior court granted the motion, and the driver appealed.

On appeal, the driver claimed that federal law did not preempt federal law because her lawsuit did not interfere with the purposes or objectives of her lawsuit.  The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that permission of common-law tort claims would frustrate the NHTSA’s objectives regarding safety innovation.  The Court of Appeals placed emphasis on the fact that the NHTSA had performed extensive analysis of automatic breaking systems over several years and had refused to cement automatic braking systems standards to ensure flexible and responsive regulations to ensure new technologies are developed and deployed safely.  The Court of Appeals also pointed to United States Department of Transportation guidance that the federal government is responsible for the regulation of safety design and performance of vehicles and conflicting state and local laws regarding vehicle automation would compromise safety and present compliance challenges.

Judge Weinzweig authored the opinion; Judges Cattani and Beene joined.

Posted by: William D. Furnish

Posted On: 7/24/2019