They are everywhere

Interesting post on defective truck brakes from friend of FSBD, The Moore Law Firm, on their blog.

What does this mean to you?

The cause of a truck accident might not always be the truck driver’s inattention.  Any legal case is a search for the truth, which requires investigation by counsel in to all potential causes of the wreck.

But let’s be honest, its usually the truck driver’s inattention.

 

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Can we at least send them to their room with no dessert?

Every parent knows that, from time to time, a little punishment can be warranted.  We generally punish for the really bad stuff, and even then, the punishment has to “fit the crime.”  In really bad cases, juries can punish bad behavior too by awarding punitive damages. Punitive damages are hard to actually prove, and as a result, are rarely awarded.

The type of behavior punitive damages discourage is the worst of the worst – intentional, dangerous behavior.  The classic example is the infamous Ford Pinto, often recognized as one of the worst cars of all time.  Ford engineers knew its gas tank design was likely catch fire in a crash and knew how to fix it for only $11 per car, but decided it would be cheaper to let people burn and pay the lawsuits.

Why, then, did the Ohio Supreme Court recently make it even harder to punish wrongdoers when they deserve it?  And why are lawmakers in Arizona seeking to exempt manufacturers of dangerous products from being punished when their conduct warrants it?  How will this create jobs or make products safer?  Hint: It’s not a trick question.

What does this mean to you?

Know your legislators and judges.  Let them know that everyone, including corporations, should be accountable for their actions.

The last medical exhibit you will ever need

I am, what the kids call, an Apple fanboy.  There, I said it.  That includes the iPad, which, lets face it, is revolutionizing the practice of law, and indeed, our very reason for existence.

One area where the iPad shines is trial presentation.  Suddenly, even a svelte laptop begins to seem positively brick-like compared to the paper-thin iPad in the courtroom.  And with its touch-screen interface, trial exhibits – particularly medical exhibits, such as Visible Body, make it all the more elegant.

The ability to rotate medical images in 3D and zoom in and out with the effortless flick of your fingers provides more clarity than a static, 2D foam-core board ever could.  And at $30, it may be the best, and the last, medical exhibit you ever buy.

Speaking of buying things, if you are in the market for an iPad, hold your horses for the next few weeks.  iPad 3 is probably right around the corner.

Questions or comments about iPads in trial?  Drop me a line.

The system works just fine, thank you

Natalie Barnhard was working a fitness center as a trainer when a defective weight machine tipped and fell on her, crushing her vertebrae, and rendering her quadriplegic.  Because the manufacturer denied all responsibility for its machine, Natalie pursued her case to trial, where the jury returned a verdict in her favor.  The manufacturer appealed the verdict.  Even though a  jury of her peers had heard the case and already decided the amount she was to receive, the court of appeals in New York slashed the amount of money Natalie could receive.  The ability for courts to, in effect, overrule a jury and reduce the award is called remittitur, and varies from state to state.

Natalie’s injuries happened back in 2004.  Just last week, after making $43.1 million in just the fourth quarter of 2011, the manufacturer of the machine finally settled with Natalie.

What does this mean to you?

So why even bother pursuing a case if they just drag it out?  In our legal system, individual people and their lawyers have the ability to hold the wealthiest companies responsible for their wrongdoing.

Well that’s good to know

Did you know that 10 years after a product is made, it is no longer dangerous in Ohio?  Few!  What a relief!  I feel much safer now.

Is this some miraculous feat of magic that automatically renders products safe – anything from an industrial punch press in a factory to the toaster in your kitchen – after the specified time of 10 years?

On the contrary, it is merely a feat of legal maneuvering.  The General Assembly passed a law a while back called a statute of repose.  Statutes of repose start the clock ticking for when you can bring a case when the product is made, whether or not you even know of the defect yet.  These are different from statutes of limitations, which only start the clock running once you have been injured or at least know that something is wrong.  Because statutes of repose can cut off your right to bring a case before you even know you have a case, the Ohio Supreme Court struck down the law as unconstitutional.

But, suprisingly, when the General Assembly again passed the same law in 2005, this time the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the statute of repose!  This does nothing to make products safer, protect Ohioans, or encourage manufacturers to design safer products.  In fact, statutes of repose create an incentive to only make products safe for the first 10 years.  After that, no matter how dangerous the design and no matter how bad the manufacture was, the manufacturer is not responsible for any harm caused by their product in Ohio.

So much for extended warranties!

What does this mean to you?

Product liability cases often involve lengthy investigation.  The sooner a lawyer can research the product, the more likely the case will yield a successful result.

You know you want to

Is work ever “voluntary”? Setting aside questions of the neuroscience behind our actions, it is an interesting question to cogitate on.  Once at work, we essentially must do what our employer asks, or else be fired.  True, we certainly choose to have a job and go to work each day, but once there, can our actions be termed truly voluntary?  Especially in this economy?

Putting a finer point on it, should an employee who uses a defective product at work (a press missing a safety guard, etc.) be allowed to make a claim against the manufacturer of the defective product?

He really, really wants to run that press all day.

We were sold a bill of goods

Over the last 20+ years, lawmakers in Ohio have been on a crusade to protect people.  Corporate people, mind you, not human people, but people nonetheless, according to the U.S. Supreme Court.  We were told that limiting jury awards would save jobs and create a “business friendly” environment .  As the graph below shows, this has not been the case in Ohio.  Even though the number of product liability cases filed in Ohio has dropped dramatically, the unemployment rate has continued to shoot through the roof.  Tort reform has failed.

Source:

2010 Ohio Courts Statistical Summary, http://www.sconet.state.oh.us/Publications/annrep/10OCS/summary/14.pdf;

US Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LASST39000003

Even in the face of such staggering statistics, business and insurance lobby groups continue to advocate for the same, worn out tort reform, hoping for a different outcome.  This, of course, is the classic definition of insanity.

The three “E’s” of safe product design

I stumbled upon the website for an engineering firm in Texas called Nelson & Associates.  It provides an excellent summary of the basic safety rules for creating and designing any product.  Products must be designed according to the three E’s, in order of importance:

1. Eliminate hazards

2.  Employ safety equipment

3.  Educate users of foreseeable hazards

For the full post, go to their “Core Principles” page.

 

And the winner is…

While FSBD primarily will focus on topics related to product liability and dangerous products, we will also delve into issues of good lawyering, trial techniques, and litigation trends.  The Wall Street Journal blog has an interesting piece on predicting the value of a particular case when it goes to trial.  The study concludes that experienced trial lawyers are generally fairly accurate at gauging a case’s value in front of a jury.  For the full story, click here.

You know they are just checking Facebook on those screens.