Friday, October 21, 2011
The Georgia Supreme Court agreed to take up a case challenging the limitations of liability for landowners when a person is injured by a wild animal. The details of the case:
In October 2007, 83-year-old Gwyneth Williams was house-sitting for her daughter and son-in-law in their Savannah-area suburb while the couple were in Europe.
Neighbors found Williams floating dead in one of the many lagoons that dot the swampy coastal development, known as The Landings. A medical examiner determined that an alligator had bitten off Williams' forearms, her hands and her right foot. A trapper eventually found an 8-foot alligator, killed it and found Williams' body parts inside the creature's stomach.
Williams's survivors brought suit, challenging the doctrine that landowners are not liable for wild animals unless the landowner has domesticated or controlled the animals.
Eric Turkewitz has a great post on New York's highest court wading into the issue of what constitutes a "serious injury" for purposes of the state's no-fault threshold. The failure to set proper thresholds is one of the biggest reasons that no-fault has not performed as well as it was expected to. Monetary thresholds were set too low and verbal thresholds were too vague. Eric rightfully challenges the language of New York's verbal threshold (and it's one of the best-drafted statutes).
Tighter threshold language is relevant to an issue I've been working on lately. The Malaysian automobile tort system is terribly inefficient. Among other things, Malaysia has separate hearings for liability and damages, often months or even years apart. A group of Malaysian researchers led by Norila Abu Hasan is preparing a no-fault choice automobile proposal. Last December, they visited the United States and consulted several scholars, including Andy Popper and Jeffrey O'Connell. I told them drafting a proper threshold was crucial to the success of the system. I'll be presenting a paper on thresholds in Malaysia in December.
Eric provided the language in the New York statute in his post, complete with his italicized portions indicating vagueness problems:
- A personal injury that results in death;
- A significant disfigurement;
- A fracture;
- The loss of a fetus;
- Permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function or system;
- Permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member;
- Significant limitation of use of a body function or system; or
- A medically determined injury or impairment of a non- permanent nature which prevents the injured person from performing substantially all of the material acts which constitute such person’s usual and customary daily activities for not less than ninety days during the one hundred eighty days immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment”.
Eric also recommended that the legislature revisit the language. As someone who will be recommending threshold language in the near future, how should it be changed? I'd love to hear from Eric or anyone else who has ideas on the subject.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
From the AALS Torts and Compensation Section's Executive Committee:
The William Prosser award will be presented at our Section meeting on January 5, 2012 at 9-12 pm. The Prosser Award was created and presented to its first recipient, Leon Green, in 1974. Later awardees included Fleming James Jr., Wex Malone, W. Page Keeton, John Wade and Willard Pedrick. More recent honorees include Dan B. Dobbs, Guido Calabresi, Oscar Gray, and Robert Rabin.
The AP reports that the Mississippi Supreme Court has called for additional briefing in a certified question regarding the constitutionality of Mississippi's $1 million cap on non-economic damages.
Specifically, in the case before the court, the parties agreed that $2.2 million of the $4 million jury award was for non-economic damages. The Mississippi Supreme Court has asked the parties to explain how they reached that amount.
More from the AP story.
Monday, October 17, 2011
Bridget Crawford posts, at Feminst Law Professors, asking where the women are in a recent torts symposium published by the William Mitchell Law Review (in which one out of fourteen participants is female), and links to a 2009 post from Ann Bartow noting another symposium with zero female participants.