Kevin Case


SUV rollover crashes have been well-publicized and thoroughly litigated. Less attention has been paid to the lethal risks created by SUVs—particularly the latest "behemoth" SUVs like Hummers—to the occupants of other vehicles and pedestrians. Due to the design of SUVs, which are stiffer, heavier, and ride higher than cars, a collision between an SUV and a passenger car often results in catastrophic damage and injury to the occupants of the car, particularly when an SUV strikes a car broadside. Moreover, the design features of SUVs that create these dangers provide no utility or value to society. The "benefit" provided by an SUV consists of nothing more than a feeling of power and control that is purely personal to the driver of the SUV—a marginal benefit that pales in comparison to the risks created. This Note suggests two possibilities for addressing the extraordinary dangers of SUVs. The first approach is to litigate the dangerous features of SUV design as a "design defect" under products liability law. The second, more radical approach is to allege that driving a large SUV like a Hummer is an ultrahazardous activity. Although courts have not applied the doctrine of ultrahazardous strict liability to automobiles, this Note suggests that the nature of the risks created by SUVs justifies strict liability under both the Restatement of Torts and other, more traditional applications of ultrahazardous strict liability.

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