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Seat Belts and Spiders, Mazda Latest Japanese Car Maker in Hot Water

    In a story that sounds like something out of a bad horror movie, Mazda is recalling 65,000 vehicles in the U.S., Canada and Mexico because of spider infestations in the fuel tank systems.  The recall affects the company’s popular Mazda 6 car from the model years 2009 and 2010 (incidentally, Mazda’s actual spider model is arachnid free).  While the problem hasn’t resulted in any serious injuries, experts say it is a real concern.  The common yellow sac spider tends to nest in dark, confined spaces and the small rubber hoses linked to fuel tank systems in the Mazda 6 appear to be prime real estate.  When enough spiders congregate, their webs can restrict air flow in the fuel tank vent and cause leaks and potentially a fire.  The recall was prompted after Mazda dealers across the country discovered several infestations, according to the L.A. Times.  Among the fixes, screens will be installed to prevent the spiders from entering the hoses.    
    It has been a rough week and a half for Mazda.  In late February the Supreme Court cleared the way for a products liability lawsuit to go forward against the company stemming from a fatal accident in 2002 being blamed on lap-only seat belts.  As reported by the Washington Post, the case examined whether federal laws and regulations preempt lawsuits filed in state courts.   Mazda argued that since federal regulations do not require shoulder straps in the middle rear seat of mini-vans, the company could not be held at fault for installing the lap only belt.  That argument failed to win over the court, who ruled unanimously to allow the case to go forward.  More on the Mazda ruling here.
    We recently reported on a Supreme Court product liability case involving vaccines that also took up the issue of preemption.  The court came to a different conclusion in that case. 


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