Freightliner Corporation v. Myrick

PETITIONER: Freightliner Corp. et al.
RESPONDENT: Myrick et al.
LOCATION: University of Virginia

DOCKET NO.: 94-286
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

CITATION: 514 US 280 (1995)
ARGUED: Feb 22, 1995
DECIDED: Apr 18, 1995

ADVOCATES:
Charles Fried - on behalf of the Petitioners
Michael H. Gottesman - on behalf of the Respondents
Paul R. Q. Wolfson - on behalf of the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the Respondents

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Freightliner Corporation v. Myrick

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 22, 1995 in Freightliner Corporation v. Myrick

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - April 18, 1995 in Freightliner Corporation v. Myrick

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the court in number 94-286 Freightliner Corporation against Myrick will be announced by Justice Thomas.

Clarence Thomas:

This is a far less exciting case.

This case comes to us on the writ of Certiorari to the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

There are actually two cases involved and these cases involved automobile collisions with tractor trailers and the accident injured one respondent and killed the spouse of another respondent.

The petitioners here are the manufacturers of the tractor trailers.

In these common lawsuits brought by respondents, the respondents alleged that the absence of an Antilocking Braking System or the ABS system in the tractor trailers constituted the negligent designed effect.

The District Court held that respondent’s claims were preempted by he National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966 and by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Standard (NHTSA) 121.

The Court of Appeals reversed holding that the tort lawsuits were not expressly preempted under circuit precedent and that there was no implied conflict between federal law and state law.

In an opinion filed with the clerk today, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

§ 1392(d) of 15 of the U. S. C. prohibits the state from establishing any Motor Vehicle Safety Standard when a federal standard is in effect which regulates “The same aspect of performance”.

Respondent’s claims are not preempted because there are simply no federal standard currently enforced with regard to stopping distances or vehicle stability for trucks or trailers.

Although the government had thought to regulate that aspect of performance with standard 121 that regulation was vacated by the Ninth Circuit in 1979.

So, in essence what we are saying is that a standard that does not exist cannot preempt.

State’s thoughts remain free to establish their own safety standards regarding truck stopping distances and ABS devices.

Justice Scalia concurs in the judgment.