Midnight Regulation Watch: Bush Administration Gives Gift that Keeps on Giving—Corporate Immunity for Negligence

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Midnight Regulation Watch: Bush Administration Gives Gift that Keeps on Giving—Corporate Immunity for Negligence  

For Immediate Release: December 16, 2008

Contact: Jennifer Fuson
202.965.3500, ext. 8369

Midnight Regulation Watch: Bush Administration Gives Gift that Keeps on Giving—Corporate Immunity for NegligenceAAJ:  Delay in NHTSA’s Roof Crush Standard Gives Obama Administration Opportunity to Protect Consumers

Washington, DC—The American Association for Justice (AAJ) continues to watch for last minute regulations that could weaken consumer safety protections and limit the ability to hold manufacturers responsible for defective and harmful products.   Regulations published in the Federal Register this week could have 30 days to take effect before Bush leaves office on January 20, 2009.

The Administrative Procedure Act allows any new administration to stay any final rules that have been put forth 60 days prior to the start of a new administration.  For this reason, the Bush Administration had asked all final rules be complete on Nov. 1, 2008.

“The Bush administration has weakened consumer safety protections and put corporate profits ahead of consumer safety.  We have seen it in everything from medical device rules, seatbelt and school bus safety requirements, railroad security, and prescription drug labels,” said AAJ President Les Weisbrod.

One area the Bush administration could have used as an opportunity to protect consumers is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) standard regarding roof crush resistance.  The current standard has been in effect since 1973, well before SUVs were a popular transportation option.  After years of delay, yesterday NHTSA further postponed finalizing the standard, extending the final publication deadline to April 30, 2009.  

“This is a golden opportunity for the Obama Administration to show that they intend make consumer safety a priority,” added Weisbrod.  NHTSA’s pending proposal of the roof crush standard only increased the ability of a roof to withstand a force equal to 2.5 times the unloaded vehicle’s weight, a standard that would still result in killing or paralyzing most passengers involved in rollover accidents.

“We hope the next administration takes the time to make a strong roof crush standard that would adequately protect consumers and ensure the right to civil justice is protected,” added Weisbrod.  The pending rule also included preemption language which could have prevented consumers from seeking justice through the state tort system.  

“We will continue to watch and object to rules that rollback consumer safety and limit the right to hold negligent corporations accountable through the civil justice system until the final hours of this administration,” added Weisbrod. 

The Bush administration has been putting language in federal safety regulations that could prevent consumers from seeking justice through the state civil justice system.  Some of the regulations that preempt state tort action have been finalized, others are still pending before the federal agencies.  Below are the rules that have been finalized and are still pending, categorized by agency.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—Regulations finalized before 12/15/08 that include language that could preempt state tort law claims.

Subject Matter Citation
Physician labeling rule 71 Fed. Reg. 3922 (2006).
Noncarcinogenic sweeteners 71 Fed. Reg. 15559 (2006).
Raw fruits, vegetables, fish 71 Fed. Reg. 42031 (2006).
OTC nasal medication 71 Fed. Reg. 43358 (2006).
Calcium 72 Fed. Reg. 497 (2007); 73 Fed. Reg. 56477 (2008).
Nutrient content claims 72 Fed. Reg. 1455 (2007). 
OTC dandruff products  72 Fed. Reg. 9849 (2007). 
OTC laxatives  72 Fed. Reg. 14669 (2007). 
Dietary sweeteners  72 Fed. Reg. 52783 (2007). 
OTC contraceptives  72 Fed. Reg. 71769 (2007).
Skin protectant drug products  73 Fed. Reg. 6014 (2008).
Soluble fiber (coronary heart disease) 73 Fed. Reg. 9938; 73 Fed. Reg. 23947 (2008). 
Toll-free number for reporting adverse events on labeling for human drug products  73 Fed. Reg. 63886 (2008).
**Supplemental application labeling rule  73 Fed. Reg. 2848; 73 Fed. Reg. 49603 (2008). 

FDA—Pending rules that include language that could preempt state tort law claims as of 12/15/08.

Subject Matter  Citation 
Skin bleaching products  71 Fed. Reg. 51146 (2006). 
OTC drugs in trial size packages  71 Fed. Reg. 74474 (2006). 
OTC analgesics  71 Fed. Reg. 77314 (2006). 
Sunscreen products  72 Fed. Reg. 49070 (2007). 
Fatty acids  72 Fed. Reg. 66103 (2007). 
Pregnancy and lactation labeling  73 Fed. Reg. 30831 (2008).

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) —Regulations finalized before 12/15/08 that include language that could preempt state tort law claims.

Subject Matter  Citation 
Door locks and door retention components  72 Fed. Reg. 5385 (2007). 
Electronic stability control  72 Fed. Reg. 17236 (2007); 73 Fed. Reg. 54526 (2008). 
Head restraints 72 Fed. Reg. 25483 (2007). 
Tire pressure monitoring  72 Fed. Reg. 38017 (2007). 
Occupant crash protection  72 Fed. Reg. 40252 (2007). 
Side impact protection  72 Fed. Reg. 50900 (2007). 
Side impact (electric cars)  72 Fed. Reg. 51908 (2007). 
Power-operated windows  73 Fed. Reg. 38338 (2008). 
Lamps and reflective devices  72 Fed. Reg. 68234 (2007); 73 Fed. Reg. 50730 (2008). 
Occupant crash protection (update to Appendix A)  73 Fed. Reg. 66786 (2008). 
School bus passenger seating  72 Fed. Reg. 65509 (2007); 73 Fed. Reg. 62744 (2008). 
**Designated seating positions  70 Fed. Reg. 36094 (2005); 73 Fed. Reg. 58887 (2008).  

NHTSA—Pending rules that include language that could preempt state tort law claims as of 12/15/08.

Subject Matter Citation
Roof crush resistance  70 Fed. Reg. 49223 (2005); 73 Fed. Reg. 5484 (2008). 
Rearview mirrors  70 Fed. Reg. 53753 (2005). 
Occupant protection  72 Fed. Reg. 54402 (2007). 
Electric-powered vehicles  72 Fed. Reg. 57260 (2007). 
Brake hoses  72 Fed. Reg. 57459 (2007). 
Platform lifts  72 Fed. Reg. 72326 (2007). 
Child restraint systems  73 Fed. Reg. 3901 (2008). 
Windshield zone intrusion  73 Fed. Reg. 38372 (2008).  
Occupant crash (remove sunset provision)  73 Fed. Reg. 52939 (2008). 
Motorcycle brake systems 73 Fed. Reg. 54020 (2008). 
Motorcycle helmets  73 Fed. Reg. 57297 (2008). 

Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) —Regulations finalized before 12/15/08 that include language that could preempt state tort law claims.

Subject Matter  Citation 
Railroad operating standards  71 Fed. Reg. 60372 (2006); 73 Fed. Reg. 8441 (2008). 
Continuous welded rail  71 Fed. Reg. 59677 (2006). 
Electronically controlled pneumatic brakes  72 Fed. Reg. 50820 (2007); 73 Fed. Reg. 61512 (2008).

FRA—Pending rules that include language that could preempt state tort law claims as of 12/15/08.

Subject Matter  Citation 
Passenger safety equipment standards  72 Fed. Reg. 42016 (2007). 
Incident reporting requirements  73 Fed. Reg. 52496 (2008). 
Continuous welded rail (inspections)  73 Fed. Reg. 73078 (2008). 

Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) —Regulation finalized before 12/15/08 that includes language that could preempt state tort law claims, addressed in CPSC reform.

Subject Matter Citation 
Mattress flammability  70 Fed. Reg. 2470 (2005); 71 Fed. Reg. 13472 (2006). 

Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration—Pending rules that include language that could preempt state tort law claims as of 12/15/08.

Subject Matter Citation 
Crashworthiness protection of rail cars (joint rule with FRA)  73 Fed. Reg. 17818 (2008). 
Enhancing rail transportation security (joint rule with FRA)  73 Fed. Reg. 20752 (2008). 

Department of Homeland Security—Pending rules that include language that could preempt state tort law claims as of 12/15/08.

Subject Matter  Citation 
Chemical facility anti-terrorism  71 Fed. Reg. 78276 (2006); 72 Fed. Reg. 17688 (2007). 
** Rail transportation security- (Transportation Security Agency)  71 Fed. Reg. 76852 (2006); 73 Fed. Reg. 72130 (2008). 

** Indicates preemption language is in the final text of the rule, not just the preamble text language.

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