The opinion of the court was delivered by: James F. McCLURE, Jr., Judge
Plaintiffs initiated this diversity action pursuant to
18 U.S.C. § 1332 with he filing of a complaint alleging various
state-law claims arising from a motor vehicle accident. Succinctly
stated, plaintiffs allege that the Mazda Protégé
manufactured and/or marketed by defendants was not designed to protect
sufficiently the passengers should an accident occur.
Defendants have filed a motion in limine to permit evidence related to
the availability and lack of use of manual safety belts.
For he reasons that follow, defendants' motion will be denied.
I. BRIEF STATEMENT OF RELEVANT FACTS
The facts pertinent to the instant motion and recited herein have been
adopted from Defendants' Brief in Support of Motion to Permit Evidence
Related to the Availability and Lack of Use of Manual Safety Belts.
Plaintif allege that he 1994 Mazda Protégé at issue was
not crashworthy, thereby causing or enhancing their injuries in a
two-vehicle collision that occurred on December 31, 1994. Plaintiffs
contend that numerous components in the 1994 Protégé were
defective. In particular, plaintiffs allege that the front seat restraint
system, consisting of a two-point passive shoulder belt and manual lap
belt, was defective.*fn1
At the time of the accident, the front seat occupants of the
Protégé, plaintiffs Marco Carrasquilla and Argenix Suarez,
were not wearing their manual lap belts. The rear-seat occupant, Ana
Carrasquilla, was not wearing the available manual lap and shoulder
In their motion in limine, defendants contend that Pennsylvania's
Occupant Protection Act, 75 Pa. Con. Stat. Ann. § 4581, which
excludes the introduction of non-use of a seat belt in a civil action, is
to crashworthiness actions where seat belt evidence is
necessary to defend against allegations of defects in the design of the
restraint system." Specifically, defendants contend that because
plaintiffs allege that the injuries to Marco Carrasquilla and Argenix
Suarez were enhanced due to a defective restraint system, defendants must
be permitted to present evidence of the availability and lack of use of
manual lap belts by Marco and Argenix in order to prove that the
restraint system was not defective. Defendants also wish to a it evidence
— for causation purposes — that Ana Carrasquilla, as the rear
seat passenger, was not wearing her seat belt at the time of the
accident, and that it was the force of her unrestrained body against he
front passenger seat back that enhanced the injuries of Argenix Suarez.
Finally, defendants argue that a literal reading of 75 Pa. Cons. Stat.
Ann. § 4581(e) "would deprive [defendants] of their right to due
process of law."
Plaintiffs, on the other hand, argue that application of Pennsylvania's
Occupant Protection Act requires the exclusion of evidence related to
plaintiffs' and decedent's failure to use the manual lap belts and or seat
belt system for the rear seat passenger. Additionally, plaintiffs contend
that the court "should also exclude references to the existence of a
manual lap belt because allowing such evidence will only ...