TortsProf Blog

Editor: Christopher J. Robinette
Widener Commonwealth Law School

Monday, July 18, 2016

OH: DuPont Loses "C8" Suit

DuPont has been defending multiple lawsuits over C8, a detergent-like chemical used to make Teflon at a DuPont plant in West Virginia.  DuPont released C8 into the Ohio River and approximately 3,500 plaintiffs from river towns in Ohio and West Virginia allege C8 has caused various types of cancer.  Earlier this month, a jury in Columbus found that DuPont acted with malice when it dumped C8 into the river and awarded a plaintiff with testicular cancer $500,000 in punitive damages.  The Columbus Dispatch has coverage here and here.  

July 18, 2016 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 11, 2016

NJ: Liability in Take-Home Toxic Tort Cases Extends Beyond Spouses

Take-home exposure cases, in which a worker brought home a toxic substance like asbestos on his or her clothes and sickened a spouse, are being expanded in New Jersey.  Last week the court unanimously held such cases were not restricted to spouses.  The facts involve a woman who later became the spouse of a worker bringing home toxic substances.  She was not, however, married to him at the time the exposure began.  The court stated the spousal relationship was not necessary; several factors must be weighed, the most important of which is foreseeability.  NJ Spotlight has the story.

July 11, 2016 in Current Affairs, Products Liability | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 10, 2016

More on Liability for "Self-Driving" Cars

CNN Money has more on liability in the case of the Florida fatality and an accident on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  Kip Viscusi and John Goldberg are quoted.

July 10, 2016 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 4, 2016

Happy Fourth of July; Careful with the Fireworks

Happy Fourth to our readers in the U.S.  Recent statistics demonstrate that as fireworks laws are liberalized, injuries increase.  Be safe today.

July 4, 2016 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

IKEA Sued Over Tipping Dressers

At least 6 children have been crushed to death by IKEA dressers, prompting the company to recall approximately 29 million dressers dating to 2002.  Suit filed against IKEA alleges problems with the design and warnings on the products.  ABC has the story.

June 29, 2016 in Current Affairs, Products Liability | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Tribal Jurisdiction Over Tort Claim Affirmed by Default

State-based tort law does not lead to a lot of USSC cases, so we are often left with cases tangentially related to torts.  The Court just affirmed by default (4-4) tribal jurisdiction over an assault (molestation) claim brought by a 13-year old member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians against a Dollar General store operating on tribal lands.  Courthouse News Service has the story.

June 28, 2016 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 27, 2016

French on Gawker and the $140M Hulk Hogan Verdict

Christopher French has posted to SSRN Sex, Videos, and Insurance:  How Gawker Could Have Avoided Financial Responsibility for the $140 Million Hulk Hogan Sex Tape Verdict.  The abstract provides:

On March 18, 2016, and March 22, 2016, a jury awarded Terry Bollea (a.k.a Hulk Hogan) a total of $140 million in compensatory and punitive damages against Gawker Media for posting less than two minutes of a video of Hulk Hogan having sex with his best friend’s wife. The award was based upon a finding that Gawker intentionally had invaded Hulk Hogan’s privacy by posting the video online. The case has been receiving extensive media coverage because it is a tawdry tale involving a celebrity, betrayal, adultery, sex, and the First Amendment. The case likely will be remembered by most people for: 1) the shockingly high verdict amount of $140 million awarded to a celebrity adulterer who was filmed having sex with his best friend’s wife, and 2) the battle between what constitutes the outer boundaries of what is considered “news” under the First Amendment and a celebrity’s right to privacy. The case also should be remembered, however, for the lesson it provides business owners: instead of facing a damage award that forced Gawker to file for bankruptcy and to now seek relief on appeal, Gawker actually could have avoided paying any portion of the damage award. How could Gawker have obtained that result? Insurance. This article debunks the conventional wisdom that insurance does not cover intentional torts such as invasion of privacy or punitive damage awards and that it is against public policy to allow insurance to cover intentional torts and punitive damages. Consequently, if Gawker had purchased appropriate insurance, then it may have been able to avoid paying any portion of the ultimate damage award.

June 27, 2016 in Current Affairs, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

PA: Two Women Sue Altoona-Johnstown Diocese Over Alleged Molestation in the 1970s

Back in March, I posted about a grand jury report detailing the sexual molestation of children in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese.  Now two women have filed lawsuits alleging that a priest from the parish abused them in the 1970s.  The grand jury report led to a debate in the legislature about extending the statute of limitations and possibly including a window in which expired cases could be filed.  The state House passed a bill that would retroactively extend the civil statute of limitations (from age 30 to age 50).  The state Senate Judiciary Committee held a meeting last week and heard from five experts on the constitutionality of retroactively altering the statute of limitations.  The Pennsylvania Constitution has arguably been interpreted as more restrictive than the United States Constitution on the issue.  Four of the five experts opined that the bill was unconstitutional.  The women's lawsuits appear to make a case for extending the statute based on the alleged concealment of the cover-up by the diocese extending through last year.

June 22, 2016 in Current Affairs, Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Tesla: Wheel Detaches; Waivers and Nondisclosure Agreements

I'm teaching Products Liability this summer.  It's a fun course to teach, and I have a sense of relief about many of the products defects we no longer have to deal with on a regular basis.  For example, last night in class we covered a case in which a wheel flew off a car and injured a child.  That seemed to me an antiquated problem.  Yet today one of my students sent me this article about a 2013 Tesla Model S electric car having the same issue.  Moreover, the company sometimes proffers consumers waivers and nondisclosure agreements as part of the repair process.  Nondisclosure agreements are common in lawsuit settlements, but this seems unusual.

June 15, 2016 in Current Affairs, Products Liability | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 9, 2016

3-D Printing as Disruptive to Products Liability

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a Pennsylvania-focused story on 3-D printing.  The disruptive nature of the technology for products liability has been obvious for several years.  There are very few cases, but attorneys have started to ponder the issues.  The story has several takeaway points.  First, attorneys expect the early cases to focus on medical and auto parts. Second, the role of computer-aided design (CAD) software as a blueprint for designs will be important:

Products liability attorney Mihai M. Vrasmasu of Shook, Hardy & Bacon said that, when dealing with companies that use 3-D printing, liability issues can generally be broken down to three categories: when a manufacturer buys or licenses a design that is used to print the product, when a manufacturer modifies that file before printing the product, and when a manufacturer designs the file.

Finally, especially in the early period of uncertainty, it is crucial to use contracts to manage liability.

June 9, 2016 in Current Affairs, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 6, 2016

Amtrak Sued for Rail Worker's Death in Chester, PA

On April 3, an Amtrak train traveling from New York to Savannah collided with a backhoe in Chester, PA.  The man operating the backhoe, 61-year-old Joseph Carter, was killed.  Kline & Specter's Tom Kline has filed suit on behalf of Carter's adult children.  The Delaware County Daily Times has the story.  

June 6, 2016 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 3, 2016

Malaysia's Federal Court Creates Tort of Harassment

Malaysia's Federal Court introduced the tort of harassment, covering sexual harassment, into the legal system this week:

“After mulling over the matter, we arrived at a decision to undertake some judicial activism exercise and decide that it is timely to import the tort of harassment into our legal and judicial system, with sexual harassment being part of it,” the apex court bench led by Chief Judge of Malaya, Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin said in the judgement.

MalayMailOnline has the story.

June 3, 2016 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 16, 2016

Med Mal Data from South Dakota

The Argus Leader has compiled what it calls a first-ever glimpse at South Dakota med mal cases.  It sounds very similar to med mal data from the U.S. as a whole:

The analysis of South Dakota data show that the vast majority of claims made against health providers are dismissed or withdrawn without any payment.

In 2014, insurers reported 163 claims that were either filed or closed. Of those, 28 were dismissed. Another 24 were closed with no payment amount recorded.

In 2015 there were 148 claims filed or closed with the Division, and 48 of those were closed without payment.

In 2014, insurers paid nearly $10.9 million on 27 settlements and one jury verdict. In 2015, that number dropped to nearly $6.4 million on 18 settlements.

In those two years, the largest settlement was $3 million. The average settlement was $367,654. The settlement amounts only reflect what insurance companies paid. They do not include additional amounts paid by health providers.

But getting those settlements can take years for injured patients or their surviving loved ones. The $3 million settlement, for example, took nearly four years from date of injury to settlement.

The full story is here.

May 16, 2016 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Study: Medical Errors Third Leading Cause of Death in U.S.

Two physicians at Johns Hopkins have conducted a study concluding that medical errors cause approximately 250,000 deaths every year in the United States, the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer.  CNN has the story, including links to the study itself.

May 5, 2016 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Lawyers to File Negligence Claims Against EPA for Flint Water Contamination

Lawyers for residents of Flint, MI have filed administrative complaints, required as a step to suing government agencies, against the EPA for damage caused by lead in the water.  The complaints reference an alleged email from an agency expert warning about the problem in June 2015.  Reuters has the story.

April 28, 2016 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 25, 2016

Defects in Guns

About two weeks ago, Bloomberg BNA had a piece on defects in firearms.  No agency has the authority to force a recall, meaning voluntary recalls by manufacturers and class actions are the only effective methods.  Class actions are rare.  Victor Schwartz is quoted extensively on "regulation by litigation."

April 25, 2016 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

UT: Children Under the Age of 5 Cannot Be Liable for Negligence

The Utah Supreme Court recently adopted a bright-line cutoff for liability for negligent children, following R3 by setting the limit at 5 years old.  The case involved a 4 year old who threw a rubber dolphin at his babysitter.  Unfortunately, the dolphin hit the babysitter in the eye.  She had just had a cornea transplant and the accident blinded her.  The Volokh Conspiracy has the story.

April 20, 2016 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Suit Against Gun Maker in Newtown Massacre Allowed to Proceed

Back in February, I reported about a suit brought by families of the children murdered in Newtown against gun manufacturers.  The plaintiffs, attempting to get around the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act of 2005, advanced a negligent entrustment theory.  The judge has now ruled that the claim may proceed.  The New York Times has details.

April 18, 2016 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

CO: Strict Privity Rule Upheld for Legal Malpractice

The Colorado Supreme Court held attorneys owe no duties to non-clients, such as the beneficiaries of a will, absent allegations of fraud, a malicious or tortious act, like negligent misrepresentation.  JD Supra Business Advisor has details.

April 14, 2016 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 11, 2016

PA: Bill to Extend Sexual Abuse Statutes of Limitation Approved by House Judiciary Committee

In the wake of the grand jury report on sexual abuse of minors in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, the House Judiciary Committee approved the removal of statutes of limitation in sex crimes and extending the statute of limitations until the victim turns 50 years old for civil cases.  There was, however, no provision for a 2-year retroactive window to allow past victims to sue.  Pennlive has details.

April 11, 2016 in Current Affairs, Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0)