December 1, 2006
Adventures in Manuals
You: the happy owner of a newly-purchased used Deluxe Sizzler carnival ride:
"Hooray!" you think. "It's got a manual! I'll know what sort of restrictions to put on it. Page 1 tells you this:
"Okay, so, 11 or younger 'must' be accompanied by an adult. Get that sign made!" you think. Oh, wait, though, on the very next page, there's this:
"Huh? The average 11 year old is 57 inches tall or so."
Just about a year ago, a 55-inch-tall 9-year-old rode a Deluxe Sizzler at a fair in Austin, Texas, without an adult (she in fact rode with her brother, also under 52"). She apparently attempted to shift herself to avoid smashing her brother. She was thrown from the ride and died. The ride operator followed the height restrictions; no Sizzler operator to my knowledge attempts to follow the age suggestions.
The CPSC report: Download cpsc_report.pdf
Might be a good case to explore in either a products or torts class.
November 30, 2006
Documents in The Station Tragedy
Now that Rhode Island's criminal investigation of the tragic fire at The Station nightclub several years ago is complete, investigators have released (AP story by Eric Tucker) several thousand pages of documents, with many more apparently yet to come. Among the new batch is a statement from the fire inspector who said he didn't notice the flammable foam because he was distracted by various other fire hazards, including the re-installation of an inward-opening door he had previously ordered removed.
TLPJ Amicus Briefs
I hadn't noticed before that the Trial Lawyers for Public Justice have a handy page containing all of their amicus briefs and various other documents. I noticed, among other things, one about FDA preemption and one about NHTSA preemption [both PDFs].
Doctors in Texas
Charles Silver has again posted at TortDeform, addressing the supply of physicians in Texas post-reform.
November 29, 2006
$2 million for wrongful arrest, two weeks in jail, accusation of being a terrorist
The United States of America apologizes to Mr. Brandon Mayfield and his family for the suffering caused by the FBI's misidentification of Mr. Mayfield's fingerprint and the resulting investigation of Mr. Mayfield, including his arrest as a material witness in connection with the 2004 Madrid train bombings and the execution of search warrants and other court orders in the Mayfield family home and in Mr. Mayfield's law office.
OT: Virginia Court Case
Congratulations to my colleague Jennifer Levi on her client's win at the Virginia Court of Appeals, which held that Virginia courts should defer to the custody decisions of the Vermont courts in relation to a since-split same-sex couple.
November 28, 2006
Wrongful Death & Military Contractors
A wrongful death action against military contractor Blackwater can proceed under a ruling issued by a state judge. The suit was brought by the families of four contractors who allege that Blackwater did not provide proper equipment or personnel. To date, the litigation is focused on the proper court for the proceeding and whether the matter should be stayed based on Blackwater's claim that it is an extension of the military.
I previously noted the lawsuit, focusing more on the information-gathering aspects of it.
Good people, I'm so glad you're here tonight. But please, just a few words of caution. Now, we are going to set this pile of evil ablaze, but because these are children's toys, the fire will spread quickly, so please stand back and try not to inhale the toxic fumes.
(Because there is no blog posting that cannot be improved with a Simpsons quote.)
In what could be used as the Mad-Libs of Products Liability exams, this year's Ten Worst Toys list has been announced. Among the highlights:
- "Heelys" -- those weird shoe/skate combinations, which apparently include this delightful warning: ""There is no way to heel and/or grind without running the risk of SERIOUS BODILY HARM, including head injury, spinal injury, or even death." No, I don't know what it means to "grind" in this context.
- "Fear Factor Candy Challenge" -- In addition to being simply nasty, this product, which includes "mystery meat," has (according to the rating group) the possibility of encouraging eating contests, since the show evidently has eating contests.
...and eight others. Enjoy.
Update: It's worth noting, incidentally, that the group putting the list together was founded and is directed by Edward Swartz, who is a plaintiff-side products liability lawyer who specializes in (among other things) child safety suits. I don't know if he has any suits pending related to the toys identified on the list.
Tobacco, Lead Paint, Trans Fats
Interesting Christian Science Monitor piece on the current status of trans fats in the legislative and public health arenas. It doesn't explicitly make the link to tort law, but one can't avoid noticing that the other two products in the title -- lead paint and cigarettes -- have more than a passing acquaintance with the courthouse.
(Yeah, it's a little weird to describe lead paint or cigarettes as having an acquaintance with anything.)
In any event, I'm not sure I buy that trans fats fits in the same box as lead paint and tobacco, and it seems probable that the trans fats issue will largely resolve itself through voluntary action -- but it's fun (if you have a broad definition of "fun") to think about the litigation issues.
More on the Big Dig
The Globe has a brief overview of various lawyers' views of the chances for the gross negligence claim to stick. That story also confirms my prior guess, that the gross negligence claim is the hook for seeking more than the $150 million set as the cap by the parties' contract.
Only Bechtel and Modern Continental Construction are alleged to have been grossly negligent; the rest of the parties are being sued for ordinary negligence (and some for contract breach).
November 27, 2006
Tort Reform in the New Congress
American Medical News reports on the AMA's approach (though the full article requires a paid subscription). Caps on noneconomic damages are still on the wish list, though they seem to (realistically) recognize that something short of that is much more likely.
Big Dig = Big Lawsuit
The Massachusetts AG is suing many of the entities involved in the Big Dig project in Boston, alleging gross negligence. As I've previously noted, liability is contractually limited to $150 million, though the allegation of gross negligence may be an attempt to get around that limitation.
Private Law Symposium Out
The Virginia Law Review's symposium on Contemporary Political Theory and Private Law is now out, with a whole bunch of interesting-sounding pieces in it.