contends that the Act is designed to admit of enforcement dehors the administrative process. It says, and the Court agrees, that 15 U.S.C. § 1411 imposes an independent duty upon manufacturers of motor vehicles to give notification of and to remedy known safety-related defects. The duty exists with or without a Secretary's order to that effect, see 15 U.S.C. § 1414(a)(1), and a manufacturer who fails in it is in violation of the Act. 15 U.S.C. § 1397(a)(1)(D). By 15 U.S.C. § 1399(a), U.S. district courts are given jurisdiction "to restrain violations" of the Act, not merely to enforce the Secretary's orders. And the Secretary is required by 15 U.S.C. § 1401(a)(1) to furnish the Attorney General with "any information obtained indicating noncompliance" with the Act, as well as with any rules, regulations, or orders issued thereunder, for "appropriate action" without conditions as to time or the state of administrative affairs.
Despite a somewhat ambiguous legislative history, considering the statutorily-declared purpose of the Act as being "to reduce traffic accidents and deaths and injuries to persons" resulting therefrom, 15 U.S.C. § 1381, its express direction that the Attorney General be made privy to evidence of its violation, and its failure to provide, in so many words, that a NHTSA investigation and a Secretary's order are necessary antecedents of actions to compel its observance, (as Congress could surely have done had it so intended) the Court is unable to ascribe to Congress an intent to require the nation's chief law enforcement officer to await the end of the administrative process before going to court on his own to redress a violation of the Act which he may perceive to present an imminent danger to the public.
Nor is there any reason for this Court to refrain from adjudication now as a matter of discretion. There are no ongoing agency proceedings at the moment to be interfered with; NHTSA has apparently brought its investigation to a de facto end. The agency's experience and expertise will be made available to the Court through evidence presented by its technical personnel and the advice of the NHTSA lawyers who have joined of counsel with the Department of Justice on the complaint. The issues to be tried will have to be determined de novo here, whether or not there has been formal agency action, thus making an administrative record superfluous. And GM will be assured the full opportunity to present the case it says it was denied by NHTSA when the agency's investigation was aborted.
GM also contends that Counts I and II are defective, because they purport to charge it with breach of a duty which the statute does not impose, namely, to make a "good faith" determination of the existence of the safety-related defect. The statute, it says, requires only notice and remedy, and those only after a manufacturer has, in fact, made such a determination. See 15 U.S.C. §§ 1411, 1397(a)(1)(D). The government responds that Counts I and II allege that GM did make such a determination and did not notify or remedy, and that those allegations alone are sufficient to save them from dismissal. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(e)(2); Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S. Ct. 99, 101-102, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80 (1957). It also says that it has alleged actual knowledge on the part of GM of a defect having potential for causing loss of vehicle control which is, thus, as a matter of law, safety-related, United States v. General Motors, 183 U.S. App. D.C. 30, 561 F.2d 923 (D.C.Cir.1977), ("Pitman Arms") cert. denied, 434 U.S. 1033, 98 S. Ct. 765, 54 L. Ed. 2d 780 (1978), making any "determination" by GM unnecessary. If, however, as the Court has previously held, 15 U.S.C. § 1411 does impose a duty on a manufacturer to notify of and remedy safety-related defects even in the absence of an agency order to do so, it would make no sense to construe it to allow a manufacturer to evade the duty by the expedient of declining, however innocently, to reach its own conclusion as to the relationship between a defect in its vehicles and the safety of the travelling public. The Court concludes, therefore, that Counts I and II of the complaint allege actionable violations of the Act in all three respects.
For the foregoing reasons, it is, this 1st day of December, 1983,
ORDERED, that the motion of defendant General Motors to dismiss Counts I-IV of the complaint is denied.