Mmm, that’s some good Viptera.

People eat lots of strange things these days.  Believe it or not, we’ve all probably eaten Viptera, which is strain of GMO corn introduced by the fine folks at Syngenta and sold to farmers in 2011.

corn

The thing is, China (a large importer of US corn) doesn’t buy GMO corn, and rejected US corn – whether it was Viptera corn or not.  Farmers all across Ohio and the country could not sell there corn, and the price of corn has taken a huge hit.

What does this mean to you:

Low corn prices, while great for consumers, are disastrous for farmers who can now not sell their corn crop at reasonable prices.

The hidden cost of tort deform

General Motors knew that its ignition switches were faulty but allowed people to continue to drive Chevy Cobalts and other cars for years.  To date, 49 of those people have died in crashed related to the defective switches, and many more suffered horrific injuries.

burningcar

However, many families of these innocent victims have not been able to obtain justice.  Many states, including Ohio, place a limit on the amount of compensation injury victims and their families can get under the guise of “tort reform.”  As pointed out in this recent New York Times piece, it simply becomes too expensive to bring a case, in light of what the law allows to be recovered.  Said another way, by the time experts are hired to prove the case, the value of the injuries and suffering is not enough to obtain a successful result.

In fact, Ohio even takes the added step of cutting off the right to bring a case after the product is 10 years old.  This “statute of repose” applies even if it is defective and dangerous and even if the manufacturer knew of the problem.

What does this mean to you:  

No one would dispute that frivoulous lawsuits have no place in our legal system. The dispute is, what constitutes “frivolous” and who gets to decide?  Politicians or a jury of your peers?

That fracking hurts!

Ohio has become the new Texas with the oil and gas drilling boom consuming much of eastern Ohio.  Most of the media attention around fracking has focused on the environmental impacts – flammable tap water, earthquakes in Ohio, or toxic drinking water, to name a few.  Nasty stuff, to be sure.

fracking

But the physical dangers to people in the area of the wells, workers and others, is also a big fracking problem.  I saw this article today about a worker at a well in Noble County, Ohio who died after an explosion.  I suspect we will start to see more and more unfortunate, but preventable, injuries in the fracking industry in the coming months and years.

What does this mean to you:

Though the energy companies promise jobs and increased economic opportunities to the communities they invade, the costs – in terms of both environmental and human loss – continue to mount.

Now that’s saying something

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law released a study of the records of two Ohio Supreme Court Justices – Justices French and Kennedy – who are both running for re-election this year.  The study found that Justice French voted with her top campaign contributors over 91% of the time, and that Justice Kennedy voted with her contributors 88% of the time.  This study is really remarkable for a couple of reasons.

court gavel on U.S. Twenty dollar bills

First, money in politics matters.  We don’t want our government sold to the highest bidder.  Second, the 1851 Center is affiliated with the tea party movement.  One of their main issues is limited government.  The fact they they, of all groups, are critical of two of the conservatives on the Court says something.

What does this mean to you:

If you are interested in Justices who aren’t influenced by campaign contributions or are interested limiting government, this study suggests, these aren’t the Justices you’re looking for.

Take a moment and repose yourself

Most people are familiar with a statute of limitations, a law that gives you a certain amount of time to bring a claim starting from the date of the injury.  That makes sense, since you know when you are injured.  A “statute of repose,” on the other hand, is a limitation on the amount of time starting from the date a product is made, whether you have been injured yet or not.

Seeking enlightenment

What makes these laws – such as Ohio’s law – particularly vicious is that they can cut off the ability to file a claim BEFORE THE INJURY HAS EVEN HAPPENED.  One a product had been made – whether that’s a medical device like a hip implant, a smoke detector, or a baby’s high chair – after 10 years, no claims can be made against the manufacturer.

What does this mean to you?

Not surprisingly, Ohio’s statute of repose has been described as “a victory for manufacturers.”  If manufacturers won, who lost?  And by the way, how does this make products safer?

Shhh! We’d like to keep our fraud secret!

So, Über and Lyft want to keep their insurance policies secret, which raises a lot of questions in my mind.  Like, what are they hiding?  And specifically, what is covered by the policy?  Is it only the driver, or are the passengers covered too?  Seems like we should be allowed to know the answers.

secret

 

Interestingly, the companies are required to carry uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage – insurance that protects you when you are not at fault.  But, there is no requirement that the rest of us buy uninsured motorists coverage, and there is no requirement that your agent offer or even explain it to you.   Its important enough to require it for those services, but not for everyone else.  Hmmm.

What does this mean to you:

Go now and find out how much uninsured motorists coverage you carry on your insurance policy.  We will wait for you here.  Yes, its that important.  Go on.

Do you have uninsured motorists coverage in your auto policy?  Do you also have it in your umbrella policy?  What are the limits?  Considering that almost 15% of drivers carry no insurance and many more do not carry enough insurance, do you have high enough limits?

 

Maria’s Message

For those who don’t know, Dom Tiberi is a Central Ohio sportscaster who lost his daughter, Maria, last year due to distracted driving.

Maria's Message

He and his wife have been on a tireless campaign to raise awareness of the dangers distracted driving poses to any one of us on the roads.  The Central Ohio Association for Justice was proud to present the 2014 Outstanding Citizen Award to Dom on behalf of Maria’s Message.

Father SHOULD know best

A father and son in Dublin, Ohio have been charged as “social hosts” for serving alcohol to a young man under age 21, who the crashed his car and died.

Man Serving Champagne To His Guests At A Dinner PartyDublin also happens to have a fairly strict social host law in place.

What does this mean to you:

With the holidays approaching, keep in mind that you can be help responsible for providing alcohol to minors when bad things happen.

The real stuff is bad enough

Ohio has seen more than its fair share of tort deform laws over the last decade.  These laws have the affect of making it harder for folks who get hurt, through no fault of their own, to be made whole again.

 

 

Man with a broken leg  walking on crutches

As if reality wasn’t bad enough, I saw this post on The Pop Tort about fictitious laws on TV shows written in to scripts to limit fictitious rights of the characters.  Art imitating life indeed.

What does this mean to you:

Know that insurance companies and corporations have lobbyists.  Most of us don’t.  When laws get passed, guess which one they favor?

 

 

Defeating Assumption of Risk

Just a quick post to say that I recently wrote an article for the Ohio Association for Justice on the defense of assumption of the risk in product liability cases in Ohio.  For those that are interested, you can read it here.