TortsProf Blog

Editor: Christopher J. Robinette
Widener Univ. School of Law

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

MD: Legislature Debates Raising Cap for Claims Against Local Governments

Late last month, the Maryland Court of Appeals upheld the cap on damages for claims against local governments.  The current cap is $200,000 per claim, with a maximum of $500,000 for any number of claims stemming from a single incident.  The House passed a bill raising those limits to $300,000 and $600,000.  Last week a Senate committee proposed raising the limits to $500,000 and $1,000,000.  The full Senate will vote on Friday.  Cecil Whig has the story.

April 15, 2015 in Damages, Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Epstein and Abbott Debate FDA Involvement in Off-Label Drug Use

Richard Epstein & Ryan Abbott have posted to SSRN FDA Involvement in Off-Label Use: Debate between Richard Epstein and Ryan Abbott.  The abstract provides:

Before a drug can be sold legally in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must approve it as safe and effective for a particular indication or use — the use then appears on the drug's label. Federal law, however, allows doctors to prescribe drugs that the FDA has approved for one indication for any other indication, even though the FDA never evaluated the safety or efficacy of the drug for that use.

Off-label prescribing is an integral part of modern-day medicine. Patients may benefit when they receive drugs or devices in contexts not approved by the FDA. In fact, in some instances an off-label use may be the standard of care for a particular health problem. However, off-label prescribing can also harm patients, especially when an off-label use lacks a solid evidentiary basis.

For this reason, the FDA forbids drug companies from promoting their own products for off-label use, except for certain activities such as disseminating research literature and sponsoring educational programs. In recent years, civil and criminal actions against drug companies for illegal promotion for off-label use have proliferated, leading to many large settlements. For example, in July 2012, GlaxoSmithKline pled guilty and paid $3 billion to resolve criminal and civil liability arising from the company's unlawful prescription drug promotion, failure to report safety data, and false price reporting practices.

As a result of this recent litigation, many have questioned the FDA's current role in regulation of off-label use and whether more or less intervention is needed. This debate sought to address these very issues.

April 14, 2015 in Experts & Science, Products Liability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Mini-Asbestos Roundup

On Thursday, Arizona Governor Ducey signed into law a bill requiring plaintiffs to disclose asbestos claims they have filed or intend to file.  The legislation, referred to as a transparency law, is justified as necessary to keep plaintiffs from double-dipping from asbestos trusts.  Today's News-Herald has the story.

In other asbestos news, the California Supreme Court will hear an appeal regarding the status of "take home" asbestos claims.  The lower appellate court denied the claim.  The Pacific Legal Foundation provides information on the case and argues against such claims here.

April 13, 2015 in Current Affairs, Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 9, 2015

TX: Watching Soccer Not a Recreational Use

Plaintiff was injured while watching her daughter play soccer.  She sued the owner of the facility; the owner defended by asserting the recreational use statute.  The Texas Supreme Court held that watching soccer is not a recreational use within the statute. 

Iowa State's CALT has details.

April 9, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

FL: $4.5M Wrongful Death Award in Premises Case

In 2005, two siblings were shot to death in their Florida apartment.  The Florida Supreme Court recently upheld a $4.5M premises liability verdict against the owner of the apartment complex, based on the failure of the owner to repair a security gate at the gated complex.  The criminal case is still unsolved.  LawyersandSettlement.com has the story

April 8, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

MA: No Duty to Provide Medicine

On March 25, the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts decided Hochendoner v. Genzyme Corp., 2015 WL 1333271.  Plaintiffs suffered from Fabry disease; defendant manufactured a drug used to treat the disease.  Plaintiffs alleged that defendant negligently contaminated the medicine, causing a reduced supply and harming plaintiffs.  The court dismissed the case, holding defendant had no duty to provide the medicine. 

Thanks to Bob Bohrer (Cal Western) for the tip.

April 7, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 6, 2015

GA: Jury Awards $150M Against Chrysler in Fatal Rear-End Jeep Crash

The focus of the trial was a rear-mounted gas tank.  The verdict comes nearly two years after Chrysler agreed to a scaled-back recall of some older-model Jeeps with rear-mounted tanks.  The New York Times has the story.

Thanks to Susan Raeker-Jordan (Widener) for the tip.

April 6, 2015 in Products Liability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 3, 2015

JOTWELL: Mullenix on Robreno

At JOTWELL Courts, Linda Mullenix (Texas) reviews Judge Eduardo Robreno's contribution to Widener's Perspectives on Mass Tort Litigation symposium from April 2013.

April 3, 2015 in Conferences, Scholarship, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 2, 2015

MD: Cap on Damages Against Local Governments Upheld

On Monday, the Maryland Court of Appeals upheld a cap on damages against local governments.  A jury awarded $11.5M to the family of a man shot to death by police, and the family argued the cap was unconstitutional.  The court rejected the challenge; the family will receive $400,000.  The Baltimore Sun has the story.

April 2, 2015 in Damages, Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Robinette on William Prosser's Letters

I have posted to SSRN The Prosser Letters: 1919-1948.  The abstract provides:

William Prosser was one of the most accomplished and influential scholars of the twentieth century.  He molded the development of tort doctrine, especially in the areas of products liability, privacy, and the intentional infliction of emotional distress.  In spite of his numerous achievements, there is no full-length biography of Prosser.  A major reason no one has written such a volume is the lack of Prosser’s papers.  Based on information from a Berkeley Law librarian, it appears Prosser destroyed most of his papers in 1963.  Recently, however, prominent academics have both written shorter biographical pieces on Prosser and called for further research on his life.

Progress is possible thanks to the serendipitous discovery of a pile of Prosser’s old letters at a garage sale in the Berkeley area.  The letters begin when the twenty-one-year-old Prosser is in Europe after fighting in World War I and continue through Prosser’s role as a visiting professor at Harvard Law School in 1948.  They provide a first-hand account from Prosser during crucial periods of his life.

This essay is based on a review of those letters.  It accomplishes three main things.  First, it fills in considerable details of Prosser’s life, including the resolution of several contested issues, such as where Prosser spent his childhood and when he matriculated as a 1L at Harvard Law School.  Second, the essay provides a first-hand account of Prosser’s pedagogical experience in law school and how that affected his teaching, his struggle with the decision to become an academic, and his candid appraisal of the academy.  Third, the essay reveals Prosser’s assessment of his own honesty, which is especially provocative in light of the controversy surrounding his methods for influencing the law.

March 31, 2015 in Scholarship, TortsProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

McClurg on the Second Amendment and Negligence

Andrew McClurg (Memphis) has posted to SSRN The Second Amendment Right to Be Negligent. The abstract provides:

Only two constitutional rights — the First and Second Amendments — have the capacity, through judicial interpretation or legislative action or inaction, to confer a “right to be negligent” on private citizens; that is, a right to engage in objectively unreasonable risk-creating conduct without legal consequences.  In the First Amendment context, for example, the Supreme Court, in New York Times v. Sullivan and its progeny, expressly embraced a right to be negligent in defaming public officials and public figures to protect speech.  This Article asserts that through both common and statutory law the United States has enshrined a de facto Second Amendment right to be negligent in many aspects of making, distributing, and possessing firearms, the only legal product designed to inflict what the tort system is designed to prevent. 

Explaining that it is a microcosm of a much larger issue, the Article focuses on one area: allowing access to guns by criminals through theft.  Hundreds of thousands of guns are stolen each year from individuals and commercial sellers.  By definition, they all go directly to criminals.  A substantial percentage of guns used in crime were previously stolen.  Nevertheless, the common law has conferred near complete immunity on gun owners and sellers who fail to secure guns from theft when they are subsequently used to cause harm.  This occurs despite frequent judicial pronouncements that the risk of firearms demands the highest degree of care in their use and keeping. To accomplish this result, courts ignore or mischaracterize fundamental scope of liability principles, rarely even reaching the question of whether reasonable care was exercised.

On the statutory front, not only have Congress and most states failed to mandate firearms security measures, Congress has — in the name of the Second Amendment — given express protection of the right to be negligent, most prominently in the form of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.  The Act immunizes manufacturers and sellers of guns from most tort claims, including claims against commercial firearms licensees for negligent security leading to theft.

The Article argues that this government-endorsed lack of responsibility results in the under-deterrence of risky conduct that, with reasonable alterations, could avoid substantial intentional and accidental injury costs.

(Via Solum/LTB)

March 31, 2015 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 30, 2015

FL: New Model Jury Instructions for Products Liability

Last week, Florida adopted new model jury instructions for products cases.  On design defects, there is a split in Florida circuits between the consumer expectations and risk-utility tests; the instructions do not resolve the split.  Newsome Melton's website has more details here.

March 30, 2015 in Current Affairs, Products Liability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 27, 2015

PA: Justices Reject Complete Ban of Informed Consent Evidence in Traditional Med Mal Cases

Back in November, I reported that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was deciding whether to become the eighth state to completely ban informed consent evidence from a traditional med mal trial.  The plaintiff's lawyer argued that the informed consent could be used in a prejudicial way to insinuate that consent to the procedure amounted to consent to risks of negligence.  The court declined to adopt a bright-line rule excluding informed consent evidence and overruled a contrary Superior Court ruling.  The court, however, through Chief Justice Saylor, emphasized that informed consent and traditional med mal cases are very different:

The fact that a patient may have agreed to a procedure knowing its risks does not speak to whether the doctor fell below the standard of care in performing that procedure, Saylor said.

"Put differently, there is no assumption-of-the-risk defense available to a defendant physician which would vitiate his duty to provide treatment according to the ordinary standard of care," Saylor said. "The patient's actual, affirmative consent, therefore, is irrelevant to the question of negligence."

So, like with Brady's complaint, when a malpractice complaint only asserts negligence, and not a lack of informed consent, evidence of informed consent should be excluded, Saylor said.

Saylor noted that a jury could be confused by informed consent and conclude the plaintiff consented to the injury.

The court thus held that evidence of informed consent is "generally irrelevant to a cause of action sounding in medical negligence."

The court was unwilling to take the next step and hold evidence of informed consent is never admissible in a traditional med mal case.  The Legal Intelligencer has the story.

March 27, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

AALS Torts Section: Request for News and Prosser Award Nominations

Dear Colleagues,
 
Greetings!  In my capacity as Secretary of the AALS Torts & Compensation Systems section, I am writing to pass along two important notices.
 
1. Torts and Compensation Section Newsletter
 
As most of you know, our section publishes a newsletter each fall listing: (1) symposia related to tort law; (2) recent law review articles on tort law; (3) selected articles from Commonwealth countries on tort law; and (4) books relating to tort law. If you know of any works that should be included, please forward relevant citations and other information to me at cjrobinette@widener.edu. The deadline for inclusion is August 17, 2015
 
2.  2016 William L. Prosser Award
 
This is the first call for nominations for the 2016 William L. Prosser Award. The award recognizes “outstanding contributions of law teachers in scholarship, teaching and service” in torts and compensation systems. Recent recipients include Mike Green, James Henderson, Jane Stapleton, Guido Calabresi, Robert Rabin, Richard Posner, Oscar Gray, and Dan Dobbs.  Past recipients include scholars such as Leon Green, Wex Malone, and John Wade.
 
Any law professor is eligible to nominate another law professor for the award. Nominators can renew past nominations by resubmitting materials. Living tort scholars and those who have passed away within the last five years are eligible for the award. Selection of the recipient will be made by members of the Executive Committee of the Torts & Compensation Systems section, based on the recommendation of a special selection committee. The award will be presented at the annual AALS meeting in January 2016.   

Nominations must be accompanied by a brief supporting statement and should be submitted no later than July 13, 2015.   Email submissions to cjrobinette@widener.edu are preferred.   If you would rather mail hard copies of nomination materials, please mail to:  Chris Robinette, Widener University School of Law, 3800 Vartan Way, P.O. Box 69380, Harrisburg, PA 17106-9380.

Our committee will send additional reminders about both the newsletter and the Prosser Award as the deadlines approach.  In the meantime, feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Thank you—

Chris 

March 25, 2015 in TortsProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

CA: Failing to Pay Prevailing Wages May Be Intentional Interference with Prospective Economic Advantage

A California Court of Appeal has held that a second-place bidder on a public works contract may sue the first-place bidder for failure to pay prevailing wages pursuant to the business tort of intentional interference with prospective economic advantage.  Garret Murai at JD Supra has the details.

March 25, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 23, 2015

MD: Dram Shop Bills Stall in Legislature

Dram shop bills in both the House and Senate received unfavorable reports from legislative committees this month.  JD Supra has the story.

March 23, 2015 in Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 20, 2015

Engstrom on Exit and Adversarialism in Compensation Systems

Nora Engstrom (Stanford) has posted her contribution to the O'Connell tribute to SSRN.  Entitled Exit, Adversarialism, and the Stubborn Persistence of Tort the abstract provides:

Serious tort reformers have long tried to divert certain claims from the tort system into no-fault or “replacement” regimes where, it is said, compensation can be more easily, expeditiously, predictably, and simply delivered.  Yet while many continue to champion no-fault’s expansion, surprisingly few have stopped to ask how America’s various no-fault experiments, in place for over a century, have thus far fared.  Taking up that challenge, this Essay, written in memory of no-fault pioneer Jeffrey O’Connell, canvasses America’s four boldest experiments with no-fault legislation.  The investigation — of workers’ compensation, automobile no-fault, the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, and birth injury funds in Florida and Virginia — reveals that all four of our most ambitious no-fault experiments have, in significant respects, failed.  Seepage from no-fault regimes and into the tort system has been a persistent problem.  Further, even when compensation has been provided within existing no-fault mechanisms, the mechanisms have become bogged down by adversarialism, marked by longer times to decision and increased combativeness, attorney involvement, and reliance on formal adjudicatory procedures.  Showing how and why no-fault has repeatedly fallen short, this Essay seeks to complicate conventional wisdom concerning no-fault’s ostensible advantages.  And, it seeks to honor O’Connell’s proud legacy, for only by identifying what’s gone wrong, might we start anew on a path toward the creation of better and more resilient reforms.

All of the papers in the JTL tribute are now available here.

March 20, 2015 in Scholarship, TortsProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Kritzer & Vidmar on Juror Hostility to Defendants in Legal Malpractice Cases

Herb Kritzer (Minnesota) and Neil Vidmar (Duke) have posted to SSRN Lawyers on Trial:  Juror Hostility to Defendants in Legal Malpractice Cases.  The abstract provides:

In contrast to medical malpractice, legal malpractice is a phenomenon that has attracted little attention from empirically-oriented scholars. This paper is part of a larger study of legal malpractice claiming and litigation. Given the evidence on the frequency of legal malpractice claims, there are surprisingly few legal malpractice cases that result in jury verdicts. There are many possible explanations for this, one of which reflects the perception that lawyers are held in such low esteem by potential jurors that they risk harsh treatment by jurors when they are defendants in legal malpractice trials.  Because we could find no empirical evidence that that either supported or rejected the reality of this perception, we designed a simple jury simulation experiment to test this as an hypothesis. Using three different case scenarios, each in two forms (one set within a legal malpractice framework and one outside legal malpractice), we found support for the hypothesis in only one of the three scenarios and even there the effects were at best modest. These results held up controlling for other possible factors that might influence juror responses to the case scenarios.

March 19, 2015 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Design of Electronic Health Records and Med Mal

On March 6th, Sharon McQuown addressed the ABA's Health Law Section on emerging issues in health care law and discussed the impact of EHR (electronic health records) on med mal litigation.  Specifically, she discussed how the design of EHR could have helped avoid the misdiagnosis of Ebola in a Texas hospital.  Shortly after the patient died, the hospital instituted EHR changes, including:   

  • Adding a new tool in the EHR requiring a "hard stop confirmation" by the physician that he/she had been told that the patient had recently been to a country of concern
  • Creating a more robust screen that draws attention to travel with a red box on top and specific identification of countries traveled
  • Adding a banner alert screen if a patient is flagged for infectious disease with an alert of steps to be immediately taken
  • Changing the discharge process so that discharge papers could no longer be printed early or if anything was unresolved in the document.

Fierce EMR has the story.

March 18, 2015 in Current Affairs, Experts & Science, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Ausness on the Right to Manufacture Unsafe Products

Richard Ausness (Kentucky) has posted to SSRN 'Danger is My Business':  The Right to Manufacture Unsafe Products.  The abstract provides:

While no one would dispute that safety is a desirable objective, it may not always be an absolute priority. Rather, in some cases, other societal interests such as personal autonomy, consumer choice, product cost, and performance may trump legitimate safety goals. This is reflected in some of the doctrines and defenses that have evolved to protect the producers of unsafe products against tort liability. Some of these doctrines, such as those determining liability for the producers of optional safety equipment, inherently dangerous products, products with obvious hazards, and prescription drugs and medical devices, are part of the law of products liability. Other doctrines, such as the regulatory compliance defense and the contract specification defense, are aspects of the broader law of torts. Finally, a few of these doctrines, such as federal preemption and the government contractor defense, are rooted in principles of federal supremacy.

March 17, 2015 in Products Liability, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)