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INDIANAPOLIS-Federal vehicle safety standards, which did not require airbags until 1990, do not pre-empt state law product liability suits based on the failure to include air bags in earlier year models, the Indiana Supreme Court has ruled.
The ruling last month allows the estate of a man who died in a 1988 crash of his 1986 Chevrolet to proceed with a suit against General Motors Corp.
GM, which would not comment on the ruling, had sought summary judgment, claiming the suit was pre-empted by the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act.
In another air bag ruling, the New Hampshire Supreme Court let a liability suit proceed against Ford Motor Co. (BI, Sept. 25, 1995).
In reversing two lower courts, the Indiana Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Congress intended the safety act to allow state common law claims, "thereby providing additional impetus to manufacturers to choose the best safety system."