Priester v. Ford Motor Company

Priester v. Ford Motor Company

Public Justice is lead appellate counsel in this lawsuit against Ford alleging that a passenger truck was unreasonably dangerous because its side windows were made of tempered glass, which shatters on impact, rather than laminated glass, which holds together in the event of a crash, thereby reducing the likelihood of occupant ejection. Public Justice joined the case in order to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review a decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court finding the plaintiff’s claims preempted by federal law. In particular, the state high court had found the claims preempted on the grounds that they would conflict with a federal motor vehicle safety standard — Standard 205 — that gives car makers the option of installing either laminated or tempered glass in the side windows of passenger vehicles.

Public Justice’s petition for a writ of certiorari was granted and the case reversed and remanded to the South Carolina Supreme Court for reconsideration in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Williamson v. Mazda, which rejected federal preemption of claims involving a similar federal regulation.

In November 2011, the South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed its prior ruling, finding federal preemption based on a conflict between the plaintiff’s claims and federal regulatory purposes. This ruling deepened a pre-existing split of authority over the preemptive effect of federal law on claims that a motor vehicle was defective because it was not equipped with a laminated glass windows.

Public Justice has not yet decided whether to seek U.S. Supreme Court review of the South Carolina Supreme Court’s decision in favor of preemption.

In addition to Public Justice’s Lesie Brueckner and Matt Wessler, the legal team in Priester includes plaintiff’s trial counsel Darrell Johnson, Jr., and James Richardson, Jr., of Hardeeville and Columbia, S.C., respectively.

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