evidence, admissibility, rule-making authority, Arkansas Supreme Court, public policy


The “seat belt defense” has been hotly litigated over the decades in numerous jurisdictions across the United States. It is an affirmative defense that, when allowed, reduces a plaintiff’s recovery for personal injuries resulting from an automobile collision where the defendant can establish that those injuries would have been less severe or avoided entirely had the plaintiff been wearing an available seat belt. This is an unsettled legal issue in Arkansas, despite the growing number of cases in which the seat belt defense is raised as an issue. Most jurisdictions, including Arkansas, initially rejected the defense, but the basis for those rejections has grown less compelling over the decades. A growing number of states have recognized the defense in recent years. In light of recent developments in tort law and the factual reality of the proven efficacy of seat belts, it is time for the Arkansas Supreme Court to revisit the issue and rule definitively in favor of allowing evidence of seat belt non-use for damage reduction.