December 16, 2006
Wow, That's Disgusting.
This is a good and oh-so-gross criminal law hypothetical, but also a pretty solid Torts one.
(My students should note: I've already turned my exams into the student records office, so this won't show up on your final.)
Let me reiterate: Ick. If you are easily or even not-so-easily grossed out, don't follow that link.
Let's see...FDA panel recommends substantial restrictions on antibiotic due to liver side effects.
Yep, sure enough, those have been busy Google AdSense keywords:
December 15, 2006
Discovery: The Game!
Every property has a color. The 5 colors each stand for a kind of lawsuit, symbolized on the Lawsuit™ cards by a particular character. Red = personal injury or "Ambulance Chaser", purple = theft of ideas or "CopyRat", orange = slander/libel or "Loudmouth!", yellow = medical malpractice or "Quack! Quack!", and green = product liability or "Bad Goods." When you land on another player's property, you may sue the owner. Let's say it's a red property, like the Office Building. Pick up the red "Ambulance Chaser" deck. Thumb through the deck until you find the first card for that property - the first card reading "Office Building" - then draw that card for your lawsuit. There are four cards for each business. You must reveal the front of your Lawsuit™ card, which shows how much you're suing for and the amount of your legal fee. But keep the back hidden! It shows your "win range" or odds of winning the suit. Cards that look the same on the front have different odds on the back - which lets you bluff about whether you have a good card or not.
Look out for that...game controller?
Nintendo is voluntarily replacing the cords on their Wii game controllers. Not sure if it resulted from litigation, but it certainly could.
Update: The CPSC has its press release up, which helpfully informs you that "Wii" is prounced "We," not "marketing blunder."
(I kid Nintendo. By all accounts I've seen [which is maybe two], the Wii has been a success. I still wish they'd just come out with Cannonball Blitz for OS X.)
December 14, 2006
Texas Football and Torts
There's an interesting torts subplot developing on Friday Night Lights. (We PVR it, so forgive me for being a little late.)
The series, as you may know, follows a season of small-town high school football in Texas, where football is, shall we say, kinda important. The starting quarterback as the season begins, Jason Street, is paralyzed in the season's first game while tackling an opposing player running back an interception. He's been in rehabilitation since then and the series has taken him through what could reasonably be described as some tough times.
In the most recent episode (full video free online after some ads) the possibility of litigation relating to his injuries has come up for the first time. (He appears to come from a comfortably middle-class but not wealthy families, and the financial stress of his medical care has been acknowledged, fairly subtly, a couple of times.) The meeting with the plaintiff's lawyer who's exploring the case was well-done, with the lawyer looking for factual theories of liability ("Did your coach ever instruct you in the proper ways to tackle a player?" or something like that) and Street's resistance to anything like blaming his coach (roughly, "I threw the interception, I made the tackle"). The attorney is made to seem like neither an angel nor the devil incarnate, but instead a smart guy trying to see if there's a case to be brought.
I assume the subplot will continue, and it should be interesting to follow. If you're not watching the show, it's well worth-watching apart from (despite?) the torts-related aspect -- it's not at all only for football fans, and it's one of the best new shows. It has phenomenal production values, generally good performances, and solid writing.
Of note, one of the executive producers is my law school classmate Sarah Aubrey.
Too Few Warnings? Too Many? Just Right?
The AP has a story on the possibly negative effects of another increased set of warnings on SSRI anti-depressants.
Mental health experts are worried the prospect of additional warnings about the risk of suicide linked to antidepressants could curtail the medicines' use and ultimately do more harm than good.
Regardless of the merits of these warnings, it's a good reminder of the fact that additional warnings are not always "free," given dangers like these and of warning dilution more generally.
December 13, 2006
Perhaps it's time to revisit and update a little note I wrote earlier this year:
To: Everyone Who Sells Stuff For Kids
From: Bill Childs, TortsProf Blog
Re: Lead in Toys
I know, you're busy coming up with new cheap shiny things for my daughter to say she needs as we wander the store. But I've noticed a bit of a trend in the few short months I've subscribed to the CPSC's recall mailing list.
So I have some advice that might seem kinda obvious, but evidently it comes as a surprise. It's pretty simple:
Stop selling stuff for kids with high levels of lead. That includes:
That's just the recalls for today. Earlier in December and in November, there's:
Various "Kool Toyz" products (for both lead paint and laceration!) (While we're at it, let's ban both of those spellings, yes?)
So stop that. Okay? Thanks.
Related, sorta: High levels of lead found in Capitol gift shop (Consumerist):
Seven products, including bracelets, pendants and a souvenir spoon, were removed from the shelves of four gift shops in response to preliminary lead test results requested by Sen.Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.
December 12, 2006
MySpace Trying to Block Sex Offenders
In a move no doubt motivated, at least in part, by litigation concerns, MySpace announced a new effort to find and remove sex offenders from its ranks of users:
MySpace is partnering with Sentinel Tech Holding Corp. to build and deploy within 30 days a database that will contain the names and physical descriptions of convicted sex offenders in the United States. An automated system will search for matches between the database and MySpace user profiles. Employees will then delete any profiles that match.
* * *
The News Corp. site, however, won’t be using Sentinel’s technology to verify the ages and identities of users to ensure they’re not adults posing as teens — a change urged by many lawmakers and law-enforcement officials.
Cardillo said his service would be ineffective for such a purpose given the site’s large teen population. Children don’t have public records the same way adults do, he said, so the technology can’t rule out whether an adult is posing as a teen online.
I've written a fair amount about lawsuits against MySpace.
Updated: Torcetrapib & Big Evil Pharma
An interesting take and a challenge from the soon-to-be-unemployed Derek Lowe of In The Pipeline:
I mean, think it through: Pfizer spends hundreds of millions of dollars, only to find that their drug has unexpected toxicity. Not the horrible, chemical-weapon toxicity that the conspiracy mongers talk about, mind you: 11 deaths per thousand versus 6 deaths per thousand. But development stops immediately, as it should, the very day that Pfizer's executives get the news. Two days after trumpeting the compound as the biggest thing in their pipeline, they pull it and walk away from the billions of dollars that could have been.
How, exactly, does this fit the Evil Conspiracy worldview?
(My usual disclosure: I do a small amount of consulting work for pharmaceutical companies in products liability litigation. Pfizer is not presently one of them.)
Update: Blog 702 responds: "Did Pfizer figure out that it would be difficult to yell "junk science" in a potential hailstorm of litigation, given that clinical trials showed a reported 60% increase in deaths among patients taking torcetrapid and Lipitor, over patients taking Lipitor alone?"
Well, maybe, but if you listen to the plaintiffs' experts in any given mass tort litigation (you can take your pick), the data are just as compelling in all of those cases. Rezulin, HRT, diet drugs, Baycol, Vioxx -- in all of them, according to the plaintiffs, the warning signs were just as stark as they appear to be here. But here the development stops. Is it a different standard being applied or were the purported warning signs different in kind in the prior cases?
(Incidentally, given the indication of these drugs, it may well be that the numbers of lives saved by the combination of LDL reduction and HDL increases would exceed the number of fatalities from side effects. (I think it probably wouldn't be, but depending on the treatment population, it's certainly not impossible. Probably still the right thing to stop development, but it's interesting to consider.))
RIP Mass Torts?
So says The American Lawyer, sort of anyway.
The article attributes the more aggressive approach of defendants in more recent mass tort litigations to more favorable legislation and courts in key states like Mississippi and Texas. While I'm certain that played a part, I think some of it may have simply been a recognition that the approach taken in (for instance) the diet drug litigation simply couldn't be followed again, at least in the cases in question, where a very clear line could be drawn between serious and less-serious claims, or where the cases had significant causation problems. The nature of the products (life-saving versus lifestyle, for instance) was probably in play as well.
Put another way, the changes in the key jurisdictions surely made it easier for the defendants to take a more aggressive approach. But that approach may well have been the same even in the absence of reforms. Not every mass tort could be the diet drug litigation, either ten years ago or ten years from now. It's pretty early to say the cases are done.
(Disclosure: I do a small amount of consulting for some of the pharmaceutical companies referenced in the article and am involved in some of the litigation referenced.)
Food Safety Overhaul?
The recent spate of E.coli incidents appears likely to trigger significant changes to the food safety regulatory scheme, according to a story in yesterday's Washington Post, possibly consolidating the federal oversight into one agency. The story suggests that the industry is generally supportive of the efforts (though cautious about the consolidation); I wonder if they're hoping to get some preemption fit into the scheme.
December 11, 2006
We'll Flame Back for Under $20/Month!
...that's the pitch of ReputationDefender.com, which -- along with defamation law in the Internet age -- is discussed by Julie Hilden at Writ. I don't get to defamation in my Torts class (curse the four-credit Torts!) but maybe you do.