Daniel S. Brookins · August 2017
85 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. Arguendo 83
Automobile safety is an issue of public health and welfare. People die when automobile manufacturers cut corners. Consequently, it is imperative that the federal regulatory agency responsible for automobile safety, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”), impose effective, fair penalties for violations of safety regulations. Current penalties have consisted almost entirely of monetary penalties against corporate entities. This framework has insulated the real decisionmakers—the executives—from liability. As a result, corporate officers have consistently evaded the consequences of negligent actions that threaten public safety. The current framework has allowed them to pad their personal bank accounts while running over driver safety.
To effectively enforce safety regulations, deter infringement, and save lives, NHTSA should utilize individual accountability. Drawing on the resources surrounding the responsible corporate officer doctrine, this Note proposes that NHTSA apply a version of that doctrine to executives within the automobile industry: the imposition of negligence-based civil penalties upon responsible corporate officers.