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POKORNY v. FORD MOTOR CO.

June 8, 1989

ANNE DUFFY POKORNY, administratrix of the Estate of JOHN DUFFY
v.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY



The opinion of the court was delivered by: O'NEILL

 THOMAS N. O'NEILL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 Plaintiff Anne Duffy Pokorny brought this action as administratrix of the estate of her brother John Duffy, asserting claims of common law negligence, strict liability and breaches of implied warranties against defendant Ford Motor Company. *fn1" Duffy died from injuries he suffered while a passenger in a 1981 Ford Econoline van. Pokorny alleges that Ford's failure to equip the van with passive restraining devices caused Duffy's death. Ford has moved for summary judgment, arguing that Pokorny's claims are preempted by the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act ("Safety Act"), 15 U.S.C. § 1381 et seq., and Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208 ("FMVSS 208"), 49 C.F.R. § 571.208. Because I adopt the reasoning of my colleague Judge Huyett in Kolbeck v. General Motors Corp., 702 F. Supp. 532, 542 (E.D.Pa. 1988) (holding "that the Safety Act and FMVSS 208 preempt a common law damage claim for failing to include a passive occupant restraint system"), I will grant Ford's motion for summary judgment.

 Background

 On December 10, 1983, John Duffy, in the course of his duties as a Philadelphia police officer, was a passenger in a 1981 Ford Econoline police van driven by another police officer, James R. Coughlin. While responding to an emergency call, the van collided with a police patrol car also answering the call. The van spun, hit a mailbox, and rolled over on its right side. Duffy, who was not wearing a seat belt, was partially ejected through the open passenger side window and was crushed by the van.

 The City of Philadelphia purchased the van in question for use as a police patrol and transport vehicle. Ford equipped the van with combined lap and shoulder safety belts and a warning light and buzzer in compliance with FMVSS 208. The van did not contain netting over the windows, airbags or any other passive occupant restraining device.

 Discussion

 F.R.C.P. Rule 56(c) provides that summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Pokorny's sole theory of recovery is that Ford's failure to equip the van with passive restraining devices caused Duffy's death. *fn2" Ford contends that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law because federal statutes and regulations have preempted state tort law claims against automobile manufacturers for failure to provide passive occupant restraint systems.

 The Supreme Court recently reviewed the circumstances under which federal statutes or regulations preempt state regulation in Schneidewind v. ANR Pipeline Co., 485 U.S. 293, 108 S. Ct. 1145, 1150-1151, 99 L. Ed. 2d 316 (1988):

 
A pre-emption question requires an examination of congressional intent. Of course, Congress explicitly may define the extent to which its enactments pre-empt state law. In the absence of explicit statutory language, however, Congress implicitly may indicate an intent to occupy a given field to the exclusion of state law. Such a purpose properly may be inferred where the pervasiveness of the federal regulation precludes supplementation by the States, where the federal interest in the field is sufficiently dominant, or where the object sought to be obtained by the federal law and the character of obligations imposed by it reveal the same purpose. Finally, even where Congress has not entirely displaced state regulation in a particular field, state law is pre-empted when it actually conflicts with federal law. Such a conflict will be found when it is impossible to comply with both state and federal law, or where the state law stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment of the full purposes and objectives of Congress. (citations and quotations omitted)

 In addition, "state law is also preempted if it interferes with the methods by which the federal statute was designed to reach [the stated goals of the statute]." International Paper Co. v. Ouellette, 479 U.S. 481, 494, 93 L. Ed. 2d 883, 107 S. Ct. 805 (1987). Where these circumstances are present, federal law preempts conflicting state regulation in the form of either statutes or common law liability. See, e.g., Ouellette, 479 U.S. at 481 (holding that the Clean Water Act preempts the common law of a state affected by pollution to the extent that the common law seeks to impose liability on a pollution point source in another state); San Diego Unions v. Garmon, 359 U.S. 236, 247, 3 L. Ed. 2d 775, 79 S. Ct. 773 (1959) ("Even the States' salutary effort to redress private wrongs or grant compensation for past harm cannot be exerted to regulate activities that are potentially subject to the exclusive federal regulatory scheme.")

 Ford argues that Pokorny's state law claims are preempted by the Safety Act and FMVSS 208. In 15 U.S.C. § 1381, Congress declares that the purpose of the Safety Act "is to reduce traffic accidents and deaths and injuries to persons resulting from traffic accidents." The Safety Act provides at 15 U.S.C. § 1392(d) that

 
whenever a Federal motor vehicle safety standard established under this subchapter is in effect, no State or political subdivision of a State shall have any authority either to establish, or to continue in effect, with respect to any motor vehicle or item of motor vehicle equipment any safety standard applicable to the same aspect of performance of such vehicle or item of equipment which is not identical to the Federal standard.

 FMVSS 208, which was first adopted in 1967 and was in effect at all times relevant to this action, establishes federal safety standards for automobile occupant restraint systems. The stated purpose of this regulation is "to reduce the number of deaths of vehicle occupants, and the severity of injuries, by specifying vehicle crashworthiness requirements. . . [and] equipment requirements for active and passive restraint systems." 49 C.F.R. § 571.208 S2. For vehicles manufactured between September 1, 1973 and September 1, 1986, FMVSS 208 requires that the manufacturer provide one of three different occupant restraint systems: the "First option", a passive restraint system designed to protect occupants automatically from frontal and lateral crashes; the "Second option", a combination of passive ...


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