TortsProf Blog

Editor: Christopher J. Robinette
Widener Commonwealth Law School

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Perhaps the Finest Warning of the Year

I am, I admit, utterly unconvinced of the value of being able to plug a guitar into a car stereo, though that may have something to do with my playing violin.  (But, in a vain attempt to regain any hipster cred I might have once had, I note that I do host, with my daughter, an indie kids' music show called "
Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child.")

But for those of you who might be tempted by the VW, I note this, strictly for your safety (from the disclaimer page):


(The magazine ad I'm looking at says "Do not operate guitar while driving," but apparently they decided that passengers shouldn't rock out either.)

October 21, 2006 in Goofy Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 20, 2006

South Texas Practice

An interesting story from the Center for Individual Freedom, which is, as the name suggests, a generally business- and defense-oriented organization, something that should be kept in mind.  The opening:

On Valentine's Day 2005, a civil trial opened in Crystal City, Texas, that would become notorious in the legal community but receive scant attention outside the state.

Rosanna Garcia et al versus Ford Motor Company et al, Cause No. 03-06-10755-ZCVAJA, matched an impoverished, closely knit community of 8,000 against a corporate mammoth, Ford Motor Company, the nation's No. 2 automaker.

The trial should have been about drunken driving, high speed and the tragic traffic deaths of two teen-agers.  It should have been held under a different judge in another venue. Instead, allegations of improper conduct by officers of the court focused the proceedings on purported shenanigans to deliver millions of dollars to a prominent local family and its attorneys.

The allegations included tales of jury tampering, collusion and witness intimidation. Ford attorneys would call the trial "one of the most bizarre legal proceedings in recent history."  Yet, these reports were never publicly investigated by state police, the State Bar of Texas or the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct. The trial ended with the largest non-economic damages ever awarded in Texas to a parent for the wrongful death of a child. The total judgment by the jury was $31 million. The case was later settled for an undisclosed amount, although elements of the lawsuit are still pending.

October 20, 2006 in Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

MySpace and Practicality

I've posted several times about MySpace and its potential liability for predators and the like.  In a fascinating story, Wired takes on the networking site's arguments that it is impractical for it to catch predators.

I've been invited here to witness the end-game of a police investigation that grew from 1,000 lines of computer code I wrote and executed some five months earlier. The automated script searched MySpace's 1 million-plus profiles for registered sex offenders -- and soon found one that was back on the prowl for seriously underage boys.

Note that this search would not have done anything relevant (so far as I know, anyway) in connection with the Austin, Texas events that led to a lawsuit against MySpace.  (See this post for the basics, but there are several other posts too.)

October 19, 2006 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Memo to Self: Don't Write Judges Nasty Letters

Above the Law has the details of Jack Thompson, who lost a case seeking to prevent the marketing of the (execrable) video game "Bully," writing to the judge and being, well, not very pleasant.  The ACS blog has posted the full letter in Word format; here's a PDF: Download bully.pdf

I've previously posted about another Thompson video game case.

October 19, 2006 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

More on Practice Guidelines

From the NYT story:

Three doctors at the National Institutes of Health have sharply criticized Eli Lilly for its efforts to promote the use of Xigris, an expensive treatment for patients with sepsis, an often deadly blood infection.

In an article published yesterday in The New England Journal of Medicine, the doctors wrote that Lilly — the nation’s sixth-largest drug maker — had manipulated treatment guidelines for sepsis patients to promote Xigris at the expense of older, cheaper and equally effective treatments.

Lilly says that it acted appropriately.

October 19, 2006 in Current Affairs, Experts & Science, Products Liability | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Manipulating Practice Guidelines

I'm not a subscriber, so I only get to see the first hundred words of this NEJM piece, but it certainly sounds interesting, suggesting manipulation of an expert panel on sepsis treatment.

October 18, 2006 in Experts & Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

9/11 Workers' Class Action Survives Summary Judgment

Jurist has more, including a link to the opinion.

October 18, 2006 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Speaking of the Scope of Consent (Updated)

By the way, the NCAA rules for football [PDF] do not have any sort of disclaimer of relevance to civil liability comparable to the NFL's.

Also, your host's fantasy football team, the Raspberry Tort(e)s, finally returned to the win column after dropping three straight, beating the Jersey Teamsters 127-84.  The Jersey Teamsters are owned by the entertaining Unbillable Hours, who will, no doubt, provide more detail on the loss.  Until then, you can read his discussions of the last two weeks.

October 17, 2006 in Teaching Torts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 16, 2006

MySpace Update - Statutory Rape Law Asserted to be Unconstitutional

Pete Solis, the individual defendant in the lawsuit claiming that MySpace was negligent for failing to confirm ages, has apparently moved to dismiss the statutory rape charges against him, asserting that statutory rape laws violate equal protection.  I cannot imagine that such a defense hasn't already been presented (and rejected) in the past, but hey, I'm not a crim law guy.

Update: Local Austin radio has another story laying out the argument in a bit more detail.

October 16, 2006 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Former FDA Head Charged with False Statements

The charges came in an information, which typically indicates a guilty plea is forthcoming; indeed, Crawford is apparently scheduled to appear in front of a magistrate today.  The charges relate to a couple of alleged conflicts of interest:

The papers state that Crawford failed to disclose his income from exercising stock options in Embrex Inc. of Research Triangle Park, N.C., an agriculture biotechnology company regulated by FDA.

Crawford had been a member of the board of directors of Embrex, according to federal filings.

The court papers also say that Crawford chaired FDA's Obesity Working Group at a time when he and his wife owned stock in soft drink and snack food manufacturer Pepsico Inc., based in Purchase, N.Y., and food product manufacturer Sysco Corp., based in Houston.

The panel Crawford was chairing was making decisions affecting food and soft drink manufacturers.

October 16, 2006 in Legislation, Reforms, & Political News, Products Liability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Importing Sentencing Guidelines into Punitive Awards

An interesting comment by Jenny Miao Jiang (a 2006 Boalt Hall graduate) on the subject of punitive damages.  The very short version of her argument is that something like the Federal Sentencing Guidelines should be used to bring control to punitive damages.  The abstract:

Punitive damages law was traditionally an area of jurisprudence reserved for the states. In the early 1990s, the United States Supreme Court constitutionalized this area of law and began subjecting punitive damages awards to due process limitations. In so doing, the Court sought to: (1) curb the arbitrary nature of punitive damages awards; and (2) promulgate uniform rules and procedures to govern the imposition of such awards nationwide.

This Comment argues that the Supreme Court has failed to bring uniformity to punitive damages law and proposes an alternative framework to address the problem of unwarranted disparate awards. Specifically, this Comment suggests that we import concepts from the Federal Sentencing Guidelines to the punitive damages context and apply a numerical scale, rather than narrative standards, to determine civil defendants' punitive damages liability. In short, this Comment argues that just as the Federal Sentencing Guidelines have brought substantial uniformity to criminal sentencing, guidelines adopted in and tailored to the civil context could potentially bring uniformity to the highly volatile area of punitive damages law.

The Supreme Court's recent decision in State Farm v. Campbell has renewed the escalating debate regarding the standard, scope, and constitutional authority underlying the Court's punitive damages jurisprudence. Although this Comment cannot hope to resolve this debate, it seeks to push the current dialogue on punitive damages law towards a more constructive direction.

October 16, 2006 in Damages, Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)