Preemption does not necessarily prevent states from enforcing safety standards that are identical to federal standards and from regulating aspects of performance that federal safety standards do not specifically cover.
Vehicle owners brought consolidated class actions against the Ford Motor Co. in which they alleged that the Ford Bronco II was defectively designed because of its propensity to roll over. The manufacturer filed a motion to dismiss in which it argued that the owners' state common-law claims were preempted by the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (NTMVSA).
Did federal preemption of the NTMVSA apply to the consolidated class actions?
The district court denied the motion, finding that there were three types of federal preemption, but that the only one that ostensibly applied in this case was conflict preemption. Conflict preemption occurred when Congress had not necessarily expressed its intent to preempt state regulations, but the state law conflicted or was otherwise impermissibly inconsistent with the applicable federal law.
The court also noted that the NTMVSA had not expressly prohibited the state law claims. The court further found that the administration's consideration of, but failure to have regulated, the rollover propensities of these vehicles had not amounted to implied preemption. The court said that allowing this litigation to go forward would not harm the purposes and objectives of the NTMVSA.