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1.7.5.3 Primary Jurisdiction

When preemption is not found, a defendant may argue that under the doctrine of primary jurisdiction the court should nonetheless defer to the jurisdiction of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in cases involving issues of vehicle safety. The doctrine of primary jurisdiction suggests that a court should defer to an agency charged with particular regulatory duties when necessary to ensure uniformity or when the agency is better equipped to address the issues raised by the plaintiffs’ claims.324 This notion has been rejected when the plaintiff does not directly challenge a federal standard or regulation, and thus does not put uniformity at risk.325 Moreover, claims based on alleged vehicle defects are typically “within the conventional competence of the courts.”326

Footnotes

  • 324 {309} See Nader v. Allegheny Airlines, Inc., 426 U.S. 290, 303–304, 96 S. Ct. 1978, 48 L. Ed. 2d 643 (1976).

  • 325 {310} See also Reniger v. Hyundai Motor Am., 122 F. Supp. 3d 888 (N.D. Cal. 2015) (refusing to refer case to NHTSA’s primary jurisdiction when NHTSA could not award damages, court had enough expertise, and uniformity was not at significant risk); McQueen v. BMW of N. Am., L.L.C., 2013 WL 4607353 (D.N.J. Aug. 29, 2013) (refusing to refer case to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s primary jurisdiction); Kent v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., 200 F. Supp. 2d 1208, 1218 (N.D. Cal. 2002); Mazerolle v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., 48 U.C.C. Rep. Serv. 2d 1310 (Me. Super. Ct. 2002) (declining to refer case to NHTSA’s primary jurisdiction because plaintiff sought damages as well as recall). But see Coker v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., 617 S.E.2d 306 (N.C. Ct. App. 2005), aff’d, 627 S.E.2d 461 (N.C. 2006).

  • 326 {311} Kent v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., 200 F. Supp. 2d 1208, 1219 (N.D. Cal. 2002). Accord Gerstle v. Am. Honda Motor Co., 2017 WL 2797810 (N.D. Cal. June 28, 2017); Reniger v. Hyundai Motor Am., 122 F. Supp. 3d 888 (N.D. Cal. 2015) (declining to refer case to NHTSA’s primary jurisdiction when court has experience with product defect cases, NHTSA cannot adjudicate warranty or common law claims, and NHTSA did not act after receiving complaints about the alleged defect); In re Takata Airbag Products Liab. Litig., 2015 WL 12641693 (S.D. Fla. Sept. 23, 2015). See also In re Toyota Motor Corp. Unintended Acceleration Mktg., Sales Practices, & Products Liab. Litig., 754 F. Supp. 2d 1145 (C.D. Cal. 2010).