TortsProf Blog

Editor: Christopher J. Robinette
Southwestern Law School

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Rye Playland Update: Victim Was Off-Duty Employee

So reports a local paper:

A woman killed last night at Playland Amusement Park was a park employee taking a break from her duties operating the ride on which she was killed, Westchester County officials said this morning.

Gabriela Garin of White Plains, 21, had worked at the county-owned park since she was 14, officials said, and was working at the Mind Scrambler ride when a 7-year-old girl was killed on it in 2004.

Garin, who had been running the ride last night, switched duties with the ticket taker for one cycle, officials said, and climbed aboard with other patrons for a ride about 9:30 p.m. She got into a seat without securing her safety belt and was thrown from the fast-spinning, indoor ride, County Executive Andy Spano said, citing eyewitness reports.


June 30, 2007 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Another Fatality on Rye Playland's Scrambler

Rye Playland has had a bad run -- within the last few years, they've had two young children die on their rides (one on the Scrambler, one on their mill ride), and yesterday, a young woman died on the same Scrambler.  There are virtually no details yet about the newest case.  Update: The Daily News reports that she was an employee, but does not say whether she was operating the ride or simply a patron.

The prior cases involved quite young children dying after coming out of the ride restraints for reasons that aren't really known.  Both fit in the pattern of some of the accidents involving Sizzlers, where young children are allowed to ride without parents but the restraints do not prevent panicked or otherwise misbehaving kids from being injured or killed.

Of course, this accident appears to have involved a 20-year-old, so those issues may not be directly relevant.  I'll post updates if I hear any.


June 30, 2007 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 29, 2007

A Couple of Zyprexa Developments

  • In what sounds like an approvable letter for Symbyax (which is a fixed dose combination of Zyprexa and Prozac), the FDA (via Pharmalot) expressed concern about the safety data disclosed in the proposed label.  I'm not particularly convinced that it will materially increase the number of cases (as suggested in the Bloomberg story) -- is there a Zyprexa user in the universe who doesn't know about the fact that litigation exists? -- but if it tolls the statute of limitations (again I'm doubtful), I suppose the marketing could continue to find new patients.
  • Via Bloomberg (and also noted at Point of Law; related post at Drug & Device Law), Judge Weinstein denied summary judgment in a class action brought by third-party payors alleging overpromotion, in particular of off-label uses.  Perhaps this will quiet those who, during the document leak fiasco, contended that Weinstein was in the pocket of Lilly.


(Usual disclosure: I do some work for pharma companies.  Lilly is not and never has been a client.)

June 29, 2007 in Products Liability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Giant Drop Ride Manual

A manual for the Giant Drop ride at Kentucky Kingdom is here: Download intamingiant_drop.pdf

I'm not sure if that's the complete or current manual.  It has various updates along with what appears to be the main manual. 

Of possible interest, the daily/weekly/monthly/quarterly/yearly maintenance does not seem to require inspection of the cables.  I expect that there is also a periodic replacement schedule not included in this manual, and that the cables' expected lifespan exceeds the replacement period, but that's speculation.


June 28, 2007 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Indictments in Silicosis Litigation

The WSJ Law Blog has the details.  Short version:

Here’s what happened, according to the DOJ: Hoeffner, attempting to settle in bulk roughly 1,000 silicosis lawsuits he brought against companies, met with insurance agents for the companies in February 2002. The Hartford agreed to pay Hoeffner more than $34 million to settle the cases, but as part of the deal, two Hartford employees allegedly agreed to receive a total of more than $3 million and each a new BMW. Hoeffner collected more than $5.3 million in legal fees.


June 28, 2007 in Products Liability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

More on Kentucky Kingdom

A local television station reports that sources tell them that one foot was reattached and one was not, and that Katie Lasitter, the victim, is in good spirits.

Kathy Fackler, who operates, has also posted an editorial called "Regulatory Roulette."  Fackler is not an attorney but has a thorough understanding of the regulatory scheme in place in the amusement arena.  She explores the concept of inherent risks and the possible roles of the government in that scheme.


June 28, 2007 in Products Liability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

More Chinese Products Reports

The NYT has continued to follow the Chinese poison toothpaste story and today reports that it was distributed much more broadly than previously indicated:

After federal health officials discovered last month that tainted Chinese toothpaste had entered the United States, they warned that it would most likely be found in discount stores.

In fact, the toothpaste has been distributed much more widely. Roughly 900,000 tubes containing a poison used in some antifreeze products have turned up in hospitals for the mentally ill, prisons, juvenile detention centers and even some hospitals serving the general population.

While some plaintiffs' lawyers' blogs have discussed the toothpaste recall, I don't see any Google AdSense words being bought (at least with the most obvious search.)


June 28, 2007 in Products Liability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Rock Concert Injuries

An entertaining Above The Law post about this ad at Q101 in Chicago, where Goldberg Weisman Cairo, a personal injury firm, seeks clients injured at rock concerts.

As a general matter, I find the header ("The pit is dangerous!") to be a pretty compelling argument for assumption of risk.  I've been in quite a number of pits and I was quite aware of the risks.  Indeed, the risks are generally the purpose, no?

Additionally, this caught my eye:

June 29, 1998 A 17-year-old girl attended a rock concert where promotional compact discs were being thrown into the audience as prizes. She suffered an extensive corneoscleral laceration with vitreous hemorrhage and retinal detachment when a compact disc struck her in the eye. An alternative, safer method must be used for distributing compact discs as prizes.

And why did it catch my eye?  Because of how closely it tracked part of my exam [PDF] in Torts last fall, which featured all sorts of bands from the '80s you don't want to hear again:

The Fixx performs at Second Street, at a show attended by (among others) Gregory Pajeski, who paid $10 for his ticket.  At the end of the performance, all of the members of the band (including Pyrnin, Prown, and guitarist drummer Adam Poods) throw several dozen free CDs into the crowd as promotions.  Pajeski just misses catching one of them.  At the end of the encore, all three members of the band again throw several dozen free CDs into the crowd.  This time, one hits Pajeski in the ear and slices it open, requiring many stitches and several thousand dollars worth of medical care.

Good times.


June 27, 2007 in Goofy Cases, Teaching Torts | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (1)

Victim in Ride Accident in Stable Condition

The Courier-Journal has the story.  It also notes some other new points:

  • In a statement, the girl's family "would like to state for the record that, despite claims in the media by representatives from Kentucky Kingdom Theme Park, at no time has any representative of the theme park been in touch with members of the family." Six Flags's spokeswoman, Carolyn McLean, responded that "Two representatives from Kentucky Kingdom traveled to the hospital immediately following the accident and were there for some time before the family requested that they leave."
  • The inspectors (as previously noted) have completed their on-site work but have still not made public any conclusions about what happened.
  • Any further information about the girl's condition besides it being "stable" has not been released.
  • There's another tower ride at Oklahoma City's Frontier City that has been shut down while the park awaits a replacement cable, which is required to be replaced every two years.  The Frontier City ride is a Slingshot manufactured by Chance, while the Kentucky Kingdom ride is an Intamin ride.  The left mechanism looks similar, though I'm far from expert on that, except that it appears that the Chance ride has all one carriage, while the Intamin has multiple cars on the same tower, each presumably with their own set of cables.


June 27, 2007 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Pacman Jones Sued

Not of particular note except for the fact that I get to use the word "Pacman" in a post, but:

Now-former Tennessee Titan Adam "Pacman" Jones was sued for his alleged role in a melee at a Las Vegas strip club.  The events as described are not exactly the sort of thing you see in a Torts casebook often:

The melee at Minxx Gentleman's Club during NBA All-Star weekend was sparked after Jones threw cash from a plastic trash bag on stage to "make it rain" for dancers as tips, according to the suit.

When two dancers began to fight over the cash at about 4:30 a.m., Jones grabbed one by the hair and punched her in the face two or three times, the suit says.

Cudworth [the bouncer/plaintiff] wrapped his arms around Jones from behind, but let go when the club manager was escorting Jones outside. Jones jumped back on stage, vowing not to leave, cursing Cudworth and threatening to kill him, the suit says.

After Cudworth again tried to restrain Jones, the suit says he was knocked over by Jones' 400-pound bodyguard, Robert Reid, 37, of Compton, Calif. Jones took a swing at Cudworth, who restrained Jones, the suit says. That's when Jones bit Cudworth on the ankle, according to the suit.

Jones escaped, and when Cudworth pursued him, Sadia Morrison, 25, of New York, allegedly smashed a champagne bottle over the bouncer's head, cutting him.

Cudworth finally forced Jones outside, where he says Jones threatened to shoot him and acted as if he was reaching for a weapon in his waistband. The suit says a witness heard Jones tell another member of his group, "Let's smoke this fool."

Later, the suit alleges that a member of Jones' group fired a black semiautomatic handgun five or six times toward Cudworth, hitting him in the chest and left arm, causing permanent injury. Another bouncer, Thomas Urbanski, was shot in the left hand and the torso, and was left paralyzed from the waist down. A female club patron was wounded in the head.

The suit includes claims for assault, battery, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress.


June 27, 2007 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Big Dig Settlement Nearer

The Boston Globe has an article today suggesting that the eventual settlement in the Big Dig lawsuits could be "huge."

"Once that jury has spoken, each defendant found responsible will bear a 'scarlet letter' likely to mark them permanently for reckless and grossly negligent conduct," warned the Del Valle lawyers Jeffrey A. Denner, Mario Garcia, and Leo V. Boyle in urging the defendants to settle the case before it goes to a jury.

The article also contains some of the factual allegations on which the plaintiffs rely in predicting huge punitive damages.  If proved, the predictions seem not unreasonable:

For instance, documents show that Big Dig managers at Bechtel/ Parsons Brinckerhoff and designers from Gannett Fleming cut by half the number of bolts they originally planned to use to hold up the ceiling, while significantly increasing the ceiling's weight by making it out of concrete. These moves made the ceiling cheaper, the lawyers said, but less safe.

When construction began in June 1999, workers for Modern Continental Construction Co. made numerous mistakes installing the ceiling bolts, secured to the tunnel roof by epoxy, that weakened their strength, the lawyers wrote. In addition, crews may have used the wrong epoxy, a fast-setting type that has 25 percent less strength than specified for the job.


June 27, 2007 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

"Officials Know How Girl's Legs Were Severed"

...but the story doesn't actually say.

Additionally, the thirteen-year-old victim has been identified as Katie Lasitter, a Louisville middle school student. The linked-to story also has a means by which one can send best wishes.

June 26, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Shameless Self-Promotion: Law & Science at DRI

With Robert Scott, I will be presenting at this October's Annual Meeting of the Defense Research Institute.  The ludicrously large PDF of the program is here. Our subject:

The Intersection of Law and Science—The Unintended Consequences of Judicial Standards for Expert Evidence

Presented by the Toxic Torts and Environmental Law Committee

This presentation will address several unexpected results of the Daubert decision and other standards for scientific evidence. It will include a discussion of scientific studies or literature created for litigation, recent attacks in “scientific” literature on industry and
industry-funded studies and self-proclaimed “public interest” groups with ties to litigation. The presentation will also include a discussion of discovery regarding this type of litigation-related science as well as the potential and propriety of bringing discovery into the peer review process. Finally, the use of historians and historical context evidence in mass tort litigation will be explored.

June 26, 2007 in Experts & Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Drop Rides Reopening

Looks like parks with similar drop towers are inspecting them to avoid another cable snap as occurred at Kentucky Kingdom.  I admit I'm a little surprised that the rides are reopening without design modifications to contain any broken cables, but I suppose as long as the cable inspections are kept up (and perhaps done more frequently?) one wouldn't need them.


June 25, 2007 in Products Liability | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Suit Filed Over Taco Bell Food Allegedly Featuring Urine, Saliva

The Consumerist has the details.

According to the lawsuit, the couple's 4 year-old son became "violently ill" after being served food that had been contaminated by an employee who "maintained 'special servings'" of food contaminated with urine and saliva so that it could be fed to unsuspecting police officers.



June 25, 2007 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Cert. Granted in Preemption Case

It's a medical device case against Medtronic.  Public Citizen (which represents the plaintiff) posts about it here.


June 25, 2007 in Products Liability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Big Dig Case in Settlement Discussions

The Boston Globe reports that the parties are in discussions to settle the lawsuit relating to the 2006 death of Milena Del Valle, who was killed when portions of the roof of a tunnel fell onto her vehicle.  Massachusetts AG Martha Coakley is also considering whether criminal charges are appropriate.  The story also notes that the various defendants have filed 172 cross- and counter-claims relating to responsibility for the collapse.


June 25, 2007 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Accutane Trial Starting in Madison County; Corporations Heart Delaware

Well, the Accutane trial will probably start soon, anyway, once the judge decides whether punitives are available.  The plaintiff alleges the drug caused his inflammatory bowel disease.  It's the second case (of 400 or so pending) to go to trial; the first one ended in a plaintiff's verdict for $2.6 million.

The story suggests that the case will be seen as a second test for Madison County, known as a plaintiff-friendly jurisdiction.  On the other side of that coin, companies like Delaware courts, for reasons that are, of course, debated.


June 25, 2007 in Current Affairs, Damages, Legislation, Reforms, & Political News, Products Liability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

More on the Kentucky Ride Accident

This story provides some further information, in addition to the fact that another park found some deterioration in the cable on a similar ride.

Of note, it mentions that the cable is ordinarily replaced yearly (at least at Carowinds, owned by a different company, Cedar Fair) and that Intamin (the ride designer and manufacturer) doesn't provide all of the parts.  The company's US president did not specify whether Intamin provided the cable.  And of course, it seems like a cable failure could be anticipated, and that even if this particular horrific set of facts wasn't predictable, I would expect the ride to be designed to contain the cable snapping.


June 24, 2007 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 22, 2007

NYT's Lede on Amusement Injuries

My sense of why people are so fascinated by injuries in amusement parks is because of the nature of the attractions: we're going there to feel that we are at risk without actually being at risk.  Our hearts race and our adrenalin surges because our body believes we are in danger.  This escapism -- the tendency to be carefree -- is encouraged by the parks (for good reasons).  So when the perceived risk turns out to be a real risk, or when our carefree decisions turn out to cause harm to ourselves (not that that's what happened in Kentucky), it's a much bigger shock -- and gets more coverage than the proportional risk would otherwise justify -- than when someone engaging in an undeniably risky activity gets hurt.

It's not just media sensationalism, in other words.  Or if it is sensationalism, it's grounded in what I think is a natural instinct among the public (and the reporters).


June 22, 2007 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)