TortsProf Blog

Editor: Christopher J. Robinette
Widener Commonwealth Law School

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Lemley & Volokh on Torts in Virtual and Augmented Reality

Mark Lemley & Eugene Volokh have posted to SSRN Law, Virtual Reality, and Augmented Reality, which includes a discussion of tort law.  The abstract provides:

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are going to be big -- not just for gaming but for work, for social life, and for evaluating and buying real-world products. Like many big technological advances, they will in some ways challenge legal doctrine. In this Article, we will speculate about some of these upcoming challenges, asking:

(1) How might the law treat “street crimes” in VR and AR -- behavior such as disturbing the peace, indecent exposure, deliberately harmful visuals (such as strobe lighting used to provoke seizures in people with epilepsy), and “virtual groping”? Two key aspects of this, we will argue, are the Bangladesh problem (which will make criminal law very hard to practically enforce) and technologically enabled self-help (which will offer an attractive alternative protection to users, but also a further excuse for real-world police departments not to get involved).

(2) How might the law handle tort lawsuits, by users against users, users against VR and AR environment operators, outsiders (such as copyright owners whose works are being copied by users) against users, and outsiders against the environment operators?

(3) How might the law treat users’ alteration of other users’ avatars, or creation of their own avatars that borrow someone else’s name and likeness?

(4) How might privacy law deal with the likely pervasive storage of all the sensory information that VR and AR systems present to their users, and that they gather from the users in the course of presenting it?

(5) How might these analyses reflect on broader debates even outside VR and AR, especially order without law and the speech-conduct distinction?

Volokh has also published this column in WaPo.

April 4, 2017 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 3, 2017

FL: $8M Drunk Driving Auto Accident Verdict

In Volusia County, Florida, a jury has awarded $8 million to a woman hit by a drunk driver.  The plaintiff was represented by Morgan & Morgan.  From the press release:

As a result of the crash, Tamara Roundtree sustained extensive injuries, including several disc herniations, requiring her to undergo surgical procedures. She has had to endure a lumbar decompression procedure, after exhausting other more conservative medical measures. She is also in need of a cervical surgical procedure. Ultimately, the total past medical bills at the time of trial were about $188,000.

Large verdicts are often altered on appeal, so it will be interesting to see if this one stands.

April 3, 2017 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Judge Dismisses Federal Claim Against Man Who Shot Down Drone

Defendant was sued after shooting plaintiff's drone out of the sky when it was over defendant's property.  Plaintiff sued in federal court claiming the drone was an aircraft, and, thus, under the regulation of the FAA.  Senior U.S. District Judge Thomas Russell, based in Louisville, disagreed:

Russell wrote in a March 21 opinion that the suit was essentially a garden-variety state tort claim that should not be in federal court. Although the Federal Aviation Administration has an interest in enforcing regulations governing federal airspace, “its interest in applying those regulations in the context of a state tort law claim for trespass to chattels is limited or nonexistent,” Russell said. At most, the FAA regulations are ancillary issues in the case, he concluded.

ABA Journal has the story.

March 29, 2017 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Wrongful Birth Versus Wrongful Conception in Georgia

A Georgia sperm bank is facing numerous suits based on a donor who was touted as a Ph.D. in neuroscience with an IQ of 160 when he was, in fact, a college dropout with a criminal record and a diagnosis of schizophrenia.  The suits, however, have run afoul of a distinction in Georgia law between wrongful birth and wrongful conception.  Wrongful birth claims normally arise when the parents contend they would have aborted the child if they had been fully aware of the child's condition.  By contrast, wrongful conception claims generally arise when a sterilization or abortion procedure goes wrong and a live birth unintentionally results, allowing a plaintiff to recover for medical expenses, pain and suffering and other claims. Georgia courts recognize the latter, but not the former; courts are finding the claims to be of the disfavored wrongful birth variety.

 The judge dismissing the most-recent claims stated:  "The reason why Georgia courts have looked on wrongful birth claims with disfavor is not because of the timing of the tort or the causal link between the defendant and the harm.  The true difference between the two torts is the measure of damages. Wrongful birth claims are disfavored because they require the court to decide between the value of a life with disabilities and the value of no life at all."

The National Law Journal has the story.

In related news, the Texas Senate has voted 21-9 to abolish that state's wrongful birth cause of action.  Thanks to Jill Lens for the tip.

March 23, 2017 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

More on the House Tort Reform Bills

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

NC: $500,000 Settlement for Facebook Defamation

A woman who implied a mother got drunk and caused the death of her child has settled a defamation case for $500,000.  10 News has the story, quoting Mike Green.

March 7, 2017 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 6, 2017

Sandy Hook Plaintiffs Appeal Dismissal to State Supreme Court

Attorneys representing the families of the children slain at Sandy Hook attempted to fit their allegations within an the negligent entrustment exception to the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.  Their case was dismissed, and now they are appealing to the state supreme court.  The attorneys rely on a 1977 Michigan case:

The families attorneys are hoping a case involving a slingshot injury in Michigan will help them prove that one of the largest gun manufacturers in the world negligently entrusted the AR-15 to Lanza even though he didn't actually purchase it and help them overcome PLCAA's strict language favoring the gun manufacturers.

The case in Michigan was a 1977 lawsuit by the family of a 12-year-old against a company that manufactured slingshots. The boy was injured when he was struck in the eye by a pellet fired from a slingshot that richocheted off a tree.

The court allowed the case to go before a jury ruling that the company entrusted the slingshot to a class of people, in this case younger children, that made the ultimate accident foreseeable.

In this case, Koskoff argued instead of a slingshot Remington used marketing and product placement to purposefully target a "younger demographic of users" interested in the most dangerous and lethal use of their weapon.

The Hartford Courant has the story.

March 6, 2017 in Current Affairs, Products Liability | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 2, 2017

NY: Treatment Facility Not Liable for Assault by Former Resident

Last month, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that a substance abuse treatment facility was not responsible for an assault perpetrated by one of its former residents, shortly after he left the facility:

According to the court’s written opinion, penned by Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam, the appellate court found that “JCAP had some control or authority over its residents while they remained participants of the program. But JCAP residents could leave the facility and terminate their participation in the program against medical advice… In the absence of the authority to prevent a participant from leaving, it follows that, when a participant is discharged from JCAP for violating facility rules, or withdraws from the program, he or she is no longer under the facility’s control.”

Legal NewsLine has the story.

March 2, 2017 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Federal Litigation Reform 2017

Bruce Kaufman at Bloomberg has a 3-part series on federal litigation reform 2017.  The first 2 pieces are available:

Trump to Weigh Litigation Changes Long Coveted by Business

Push to Enact Civil Justice Bills Follows Industry Playbook

March 1, 2017 in Current Affairs, Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

VA: Battery or Negligence?

The jurisdictions wrestle with the line between battery and negligence, especially negligence based on informed consent.  The Virginia Supreme Court just drew the line in a case in which a physician fused the wrong level on the patient's spine (C-6 and C-7 instead of C-5 and C-6).  The court ruled this was an issue of negligence, not battery:

In the case of battery, there has been precedent that defines it as any unwanted bodily contact or the consent of the patient. Whereas the tort of negligence has been set up to ensure individuals act with reasonable care. As well, in battery there is the question of intent whereas intent is not a consideration in negligence.

“These considerations lead us to conclude that a physician is not liable for battery unless the plaintiff establishes a prima facie case that the physician performed an operation ‘against the patient’s will or substantially at variance with the consent given,’” according to the court's opinion.

The court also concluded that whether or not Mayr disclosed the risks involved with the surgery will also fall under the tort of negligence.

“When a patient has consented to surgery but complains that the physician has not disclosed certain risks, the dispositive question is whether the physician breached the standard of care by failing to disclose those risks. Breach of the standard of care falls within the realm of negligence and does not constitute an intentional tort,” the opinion states.

Forbes has the story.

February 22, 2017 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Paris Climate Accord as Tobacco-Style Mass Tort Settlement

Over at the American College of Environmental Lawyers, Eugene Trisko's post "Paris:  Should We Stay or Should We Go?", analogizes the Paris climate accords to the settlement of tobacco claims.

Thanks to John Dernbach for the tip.

February 2, 2017 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

New Study: Malpractice Law Does Not Improve Results

A new study from Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine has concluded that stronger med mal laws do not translate to better care.  Fox News Health has the story, quoting both Michelle Mello and William Sage.

January 19, 2017 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

OH: No Police Liability for Injuries to Innocent Bystander During Chase of Fleeing Felon

Marianna Brown Bettman has commentary at Legally Speaking Ohio.

January 18, 2017 in Current Affairs, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 16, 2017

CT: Rejection of R(3): Products Liability

In late December, the Connecticut Supreme Court reaffirmed its commitment to 402(A), but also modified existing doctrine.  Jennifer Brooks Crozier and Adam Masin explain at JD Supra Business Advisor.  The gist:

In arguably the most important Connecticut tort-law decision in decades, the Connecticut Supreme Court in Bifolck v. Philip Morris, Inc., --- A.3d ---, 2016 WL 7509118 (Conn. Dec. 29, 2016), declined to adopt the approach of the Restatement (Third) to product liability design-defect claims and  “reaffirm[ed] its allegiance” to a “true strict liability” standard under § 402A of the Restatement (Second).  The Court also made a number of “modest refinements” to the Court’s existing interpretation of § 402A.  Most importantly, the Court held that every product liability design-defect claim must allege that the product was “unreasonably dangerous,” but declined to box plaintiffs into one definition of that term for purposes of stating a claim.  The Court also refused to limit punitive damages under the Connecticut Product Liability Act (“CPLA”) to the “litigation expenses less costs” limit under the common-law rule set forth in Waterbury Petroleum Products, Inc. v. Canaan Oil & Fuel Co., 193 Conn. 208, 477 A.2d 988 (1984).  Given the Court’s cautious approach to remaking the state’s tort law, Bifolck is in practice a reaffirmation of the status quo in Connecticut—at least for now.  The Court did leave open the possibility that it might adopt the Restatement (Third) at some point in the future should its standards under § 402A prove “unworkable.”

January 16, 2017 in Current Affairs, Products Liability | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 13, 2017

A State-by-State Breakdown of Med Mal Cases

Becker's Hospital Review provides a state-by-state comparison of malpractice suits and costs per 100,000 residents, in order from the largest amount (Louisiana at 44.1  suits per 100,000 residents) to the smallest (Hawaii at 4.9).  The list is here.

January 13, 2017 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Purposeful Infliction of Bodily Harm

Tentative Draft No. 1 of the Restatement of Intentional Torts includes Section 104 on the Purposeful Infliction of Bodily Harm:

§ 104.     Purposeful Infliction of Bodily Harm

An actor is subject to liability to another for purposeful infliction of bodily harm if:

(a) the actor purposely causes bodily harm to the other, either by the actor’s affirmative conduct or by the actor’s failure to prevent bodily harm when the actor has a duty to prevent such harm … 

Comment b.  … This Section recognizes intentional-tort liability in a small group of cases in which the contact requirement of battery liability is not satisfied but in which the actor’s culpability is especially pronounced.
 
Last month, Kurt Eichenwald, an author at Newsweek and critic of Donald Trump,  experienced an epileptic seizure when someone deliberately tweeted him a flashing yellow and orange starlike image reading, "you deserve a seizure for your posts."  Eichenwald had just finished a contentious interview on Fox News; it is well-known that Eichenwald suffers from epilepsy.   Story here
 
Ken Simons, a Reporter on the project, comments:
 
What is especially interesting about this case is:
 
(a) It is doubtful that battery liability would be recognized on these facts, given the difficulty of proving that the defendant’s interaction with the plaintiff satisfies battery’s contact requirement;
 
(b) It is quite possible that liability would be recognized under Sec. 104 of the Restatement Third, Intentional Torts to Persons (Tentative Draft No. 1, April 8, 2015, approved by American Law Institute):

January 12, 2017 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

11th Cir: Economic Loss Rule Applied in Products Case

In the National Law Review, Walter Latimer has a column about a recent Eleventh Circuit products case upholding the economic loss rule:

The Economic Loss Rule is a doctrine of law that prohibits a product liability claim being brought against a manufacturer for a defective product that only destroys itself, without harm to other property or to a person. In those instances where the product fails but only damages itself and nothing else, the plaintiff’s only remedy is to sue for breach of contract against the manufacturer of the product. The plaintiff cannot seek recovery from the manufacturer under product liability causes of action. The Economic Loss Rule has historically served as the boundary between tort and contract law. Despite the fact it is part of the basic fabric that makes up tort law, it is still challenged by plaintiffs in product liability actions.

In Eiber v. Toshiba Americas Medical Systems, the plaintiff radiologist tried to sue an international electronics manufacturer for failing to maintain an MRI scanner that was out of date. The manufacturer advised the radiologist that the scanner had reached the end of its useful life, and the manufacturer would no longer provide service to it under contract. The aging scanner eventually stopped working, which the plaintiff claimed was due to negligent repairs rather than a failure of the scanner.

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal on the basis of the economic loss rule.

January 11, 2017 in Current Affairs, Products Liability | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

AALS Torts Section in SF

The AALS Section on Torts and Compensation Systems panel information:

"Gun Regulation and Private Law"
Friday, Jan 6, 1:30-3:15 pm
Hilton San Francisco Union Square, Ballroom Level, Continental Parlor 3.
 
Panelists:
Adam Scales, Rutgers Law School
Stephen Sugarman, UC-Berkeley School of Law
Christine Van Aken, San Francisco City Attorney's Office
Leslie Kendrick, Chair of the Section/Moderator, UVa Law
 
The Section is also co-sponsoring the Litigation panel on MDL Problems; it is from 10:30-12:15 on Friday in Golden Gate 7 on the lower level.

January 4, 2017 in Conferences, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

NJ: Federal Law Does Not Preempt Claims of Failure by a Generic Drug Manufacturer to Update Warnings in a Timely Manner

The National Law Review analyzes New Jersey's ruling that "federal law does not pre-empt state law claims alleging that a generic drug manufacturer failed to timely update the warnings for its product to match those of the brand-name counterpart."

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

Thursday, December 15, 2016

College Basketball Coach Accused of Battering Players During Game

Sean Woods, the basketball coach at Morehead State, has been accused of battering two players during a game last month.  One player said the coach backhanded him in the chest in the locker room at halftime and another player said the coach shoved him during a timeout and in the locker room.  Woods has been suspended, and criminal battery charges have been filed.  The Lexington Herald Leader has the story.  Thanks to David Raeker-Jordan for the tip.

December 15, 2016 in Current Affairs, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)