Brailsford v. Nissan Motor Company
We won the first decision in the country to uphold a plaintiff’s right to sue an auto maker for its failure to install a lap/shoulder belt in the rear-center seat of a passenger car. The plaintiff in this case was a four-year-old boy who was permanently paralyzed after a car crash. A Florida court rejected Nissan’s argument that common-law tort claims alleging that a car maker should have installed three-point lap/shoulder belts, rather than two-point lap belts, in the rear-center seats of its 1998 Nissan Sentra cars are preempted by a federal regulation that gave car makers the option of installing either lap/shoulder belts or lap belts in rear-center seats. This decision came in response to our arguments that the mere existence of a regulatory option does not exert any preemptive effect and that the plaintiffs’ claims did not undermine any specific federal regulatory purpose. Shortly after this decision, the case settled. Public Justice Attorney Leslie Brueckner was lead counsel on the preemption issue. Co-counsel was Theodore Leopold of West Palm Beach, Florida.