WASHINGTON — Tire industry and consumer plaintiffs still are considering what to do about a federal appeals court´s partial denial of their petition to send the tire pressure monitoring systems final rule back to the drawing board.
A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit decided 2-1 on June 15 that four major tire manufacturers-Goodyear, Bridgestone/ Firestone, Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. and Pirelli Tire L.L.C.-and the Tire Industry Association have no standing under Article III of the Constitution to challenge the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration´s tire pressure monitoring system final rule.
The two-judge majority invited the consumer group Public Citizen to submit further documentation on its standing to sue NHTSA over the rule. A dissenting judge, however, said he would also have ruled Public Citizen ineligible to challenge the standard.
TIA, Public Citizen and the tire makers filed suit in June 2005, claiming the monitoring system rule was fundamentally flawed and had to be sent back to NHTSA for revision. They criticized the agency for allowing tires to fall 25 percent below the vehicle manufacturer´s recommended air pressure before the monitoring system warning light would illuminate, and for allowing 20 minutes between the system´s picking up on a tire´s underinflation and notifying the driver.
"This could be the first time in the history of rule making that the industries impacted by a proposed regulation do not think that the proposal is stringent enough," Roy Littlefield, TIA executive vice president, said earlier.
Under Article III, the court said, an appeals court may directly review a statute an agency promulgates, or "prescribes." NHTSA merely denied the petitions of the plaintiffs to amend the monitoring system rule, which doesn´t constitute "prescribing" a statute, it said.
"This case does not call on us to exercise that kind of authority," the majority ruling stated.
Finally, the tire pressure monitoring system standard prescribes the conduct of auto makers, not tire makers, which makes the tire makers ineligible to challenge it, the court ruled. However, the court found some ambiguity as to whether Public Citizen has the standing to file suit and gave the group until the end of the month to file supplementary documents to support its claims.
Attorneys for Public Citizen and the tire industry said they were still studying the decision to determine their course of action. In the case of a negative appeals court ruling, plaintiffs generally have several choices, including a petition for the original three-judge panel to reconsider the decision; a petition for the entire 11-judge panel to review it; and an appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.