Some Good News: NHTSA Recommends Legal Sunshine in 21st Century
“NHTSA’s ability to identify and define safety-related motor vehicle defects relies in large part on manufacturers’ self-reporting. However, although federal regulations may require them to report certain information to NHTSA, manufacturers do not always do so, or do not do so in a timely manner. Additionally, the information a manufacturer is required to report varies greatly depending on the product and company size and purpose. Given these constraints, safety-related information developed or discovered in private litigation is an important resource for NHTSA.
This Enforcement Guidance Bulletin sets forth NHTSA’s recommended guiding principles and best practices to be utilized in the context of private litigation. To the extent protective orders, settlement agreements, or other confidentiality provisions prohibit information obtained in private litigation from being transmitted to NHTSA, such limitations are contrary to Rule 26 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, its state corollaries, and sound principles of public policy. Although such restrictions are generally prohibited by applicable rules and law, the Agency recommends that litigants include a specific provision in any protective order or settlement agreement that provides for disclosure of relevant motor vehicle safety information to NHTSA, regardless of any other restrictions on the disclosure or dissemination of such information.”
Please also see attached comment to NHTSA by Investigator Steve Gray that notes the past legal practices that permitted deaths and injuries to occur for decades.
Now we still have to make sure that legal information transmitted to NHTSA is made public and acted upon in the public interest.