TortsProf Blog

Editor: Christopher J. Robinette
Widener Commonwealth Law School

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)

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Agriculture-Related Torts

For a couple years, I have posted torts items from Roger McEowen at Iowa State's Center for Agricultural Law & Taxation.  Roger is now with Washburn's law school and produces the Washburn Agricultural Law & Tax Report.  Check it out.

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

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

UVa Swim Team Hazing Lawsuit Settled

A former member of the UVa swim team and five team members have settled a federal hazing lawsuit.  The five team members issued an apology but continued to deny the more egregious allegations, which included locking the former team member in a bathroom and subjecting him to sexual assault.  They acknowledged their actions caused plaintiff hardship.  Virginia Lawyers Weekly has the story.

March 30, 2016 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 28, 2016

TN: Office-Sharing Lawyers Potentially Vicariously Liable for Malpractice

A federal judge in Tennessee has ruled an unincorporated association of attorneys sharing office space is not entitled to summary judgment for a claim of vicarious liability for legal malpractice.  Bloomberg BNA has the story.

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

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Hulk Hogan, Sex Tapes, and Privacy

At Slate, Amy Gajda has a piece on Hulk Hogan's verdict against Gawker, focusing on public disclosure of embarrassing private facts.  She goes through the Restatement and discusses precedents regarding balancing privacy with freedom of the press.

March 23, 2016 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Lexology: Justice Scalia's Legacy on Products Liability, Class Actions, and Punitive Damages

At Lexology, Anand Agneshwar and Emily May of Arnold & Porter recap Justice Scalia's legacy from a torts perspective.

March 22, 2016 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 18, 2016

PA: $4.2M Jury Award for Nuisance in Gas Drilling

Last week, 2 Pennsylvania families won a $4.2M jury award against fracking operators for contaminating their wells.  Plaintiffs' fracking verdicts have been rare, with the 2014 Parr case in Texas ($2.9M) leading the way.  BNA Bloomberg has the story, with an emphasis on whether this verdict will embolden potential plaintiffs.

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

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

PA: Doctor, Hospital Settle Med Mal Case

Representatives of the young doctor who died of complications from a blood clot and the hospital that treated her have settled their med mal case for an undisclosed amount.  The Scranton Times-Tribune has details.

March 8, 2016 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)