In 2004, we published our “Top 10 Zany Immunity Law Awards,” poking fun at special interests that annually line up before state lawmakers asking “for the opportunity to show their patriotic civic duty” by getting immunity for themselves. “After all,” we satirized, “just in case they do something wrong, why should they have to pay for it anyway?” We had the “Let’s Put the FUN Back in FUNerals” Award, for the law immunizing morticians in Indiana who mix-up body parts; the “Make Mine Extra Crispy” Award, for legislation immunizing tanning parlors in Colorado; and the “One Strike, You’re Out … Cold” Award, which shields baseball park owners from liability in Arizona.
Today, all joking aside, we are seeing a new incarnation of this strategy, but there’s nothing very funny about it. It comes courtesy of an often unpopular yet incredibly brazen group of special interests – used car dealers. If restoring their reputation or fostering good will is any sort of goal for this group, their latest endeavor isn’t going to help.
Nine out of 10 Americans believe that car dealers shouldn’t sell used cars with safety defects. Despite this fact, dealers have successfully pushed in Tennessee and Pennsylvania — and are now trying to pass in New Jersey — legislation to allow used car dealers to sell used cars with unrepaired safety defects. (They have been unsuccessful — for now — with similar bills in California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia.) What’s more, the dealers would not be liable for resulting injuries or deaths caused by the safety defect. All the car dealer has to do is “disclose” (i.e. bury in paperwork) when selling the car that it’s under safety recall. But obviously, the whole idea is to allow these dealers to pressure and confuse customers into buying unrepaired cars, and then not be on the hook for selling them.
This legislation will hurt decent, hardworking Americans in extremely disturbing ways. Just ask Alexander Brangman, whose beautiful 26-year-old daughter, Jewel, was killed by an unrepaired, recalled Takata airbag. You may have heard about Jewel. She was the girlfriend of actor Scott Eastwood, Clint’s son, and a “a gifted gymnast, gymnastics teacher and model” who was preparing for her Ph.D. Her father, Alexander, is now on a mission to ensure that such a tragedy doesn’t happen to anyone else. As he wrote to the Governor of New Jersey about the bill under consideration: