Product Liability

Beware of the dangers of window falls… especially on warm summer days

Falls from windows injure 5,100 kids every year Most hurt after spills from second stories; toddlers account for two-thirds of casesAn article today on MSNBC is a reminder to all of us that over 5K young children fall out of windows every year. At SKW, personal injury attorneys have handled a number of tragic cases, where a young child falls out of a window (see article about window falls.pdf).msnbc story.jpg

For parent of children under 4, please remain extra vigilant. The MSNBC article points out that 2/3rds of the falls involve a toddler and that window screens are not enough to prevent dangerous falls. 



NFL’s Headaches Continue… For Brain Injuries

NFL.jpgJust when you might have thought that NFL’s woes were over with the end of its 136 day lockout, 75 players and some of their wives filed a lawsuit in L.A. last week for negligence, fraud, and liablity. In addition to NFL, Riddell, the well known helmet maker and the supplier of helmets to NFL, is named as a defendant in the lawsuit. 

Allegedly, NFL knew about the harmful effects of concussions as early as the 1920s, but intentionally hid related information from coaches, trainers, players and the public. The suit seeks unspecified damages.

As evidenced by comments on this story at MSNBC and other news sites, people are already likening this lawsuit to the McDonalds hot coffee lawsuit. (Sadly, those drawing the parallel remain woefully ignorant by the so called “frivolous lawsuit” of the 79 year old woman Stella Liebeck, who sued McDonalds.)

Interestingly, the NFL created the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee back in 1994, which studied the long term risk of long term brain injury to players. According to the complaint, the Committee published false and deceptive reports, to mislead the public along with Congress and the players. 

In 2007 players received a pamphlet that pointed to the Committee’s research papers, stating, “Current research with professional athletes has not shown that having more than one or two concussions leads to permanent problems if each injury is treated properly.”

However, from the start of last season NFL players could read about how concussions could lead to depression and early onset of dementia, which “can change your life and your family’s life forever” from posters in every team’s locker room.

For many reasons, this lawsuit is one to watch.

Medical Monitoring Drives New Car Developments for GM & Ford

A little over 75% of all drivers are interested in “mobile health solutions,” according to a Harris Interactive CTIA survey. Major car manufacturers, such as GM and Ford, are homing in on the idea that consumers are more likely to buy a car, if it can monitor a driver’s diabetes or heart rate.!GMOnstar Volt.jpg 

GM began offering healthcare instruction via its OnStar system. Not a bad idea, given that twenty-six million Americans are now afflicted with diabetes. With the latest technological innovations, diabetics, young and old, can benefit from a car that alerts the driver if her blood sugar is too low — preventing potentially catastrophic accidents.

Ford’s Sync (developed with Microsoft) offers mobile health monitoring and has supposedly helped to increase its average sale by $4100 per unit from a couple of years ago. Soon, new Ford drivers may literally hear a new tune and get incoming calls intercepted, if the car recognizes that the driver’s heart rate has elevated too much. The last things that stressed out drivers need are phone calls coming in on their cell phones. However, mellow music may be just the ticket, to de-stress in a hectic commute.

According to Bryan Reimer, a researcher at M.I.T.’s AgeLab, ““Biometrics could play an integral role in the future of driving.”  So much for marveling at the fact that my car’s DVD player can keep my toddler content on long drives…

Don’t miss “Hot Coffee!”

This weekend I got to see my last movie at the Seattle International Film Festival. It was “Hot Coffee,” a documentary by Susan Saladoff. It made me incredibly proud to be in this profession and to work with some of the best trial lawyers in the country.cropped-hotcoffee.jpg

The movie is an absolute must-see. Period. Full stop. When the DVD comes out (later this summer), run, don’t walk to buy it. Better yet, you can see it if you have HBO later this month. It is not a dry, boring documentary: Al Franken and Paul Grisham keep things lively.

Although I work for a plaintiffs law firm, even I had misconceptions about the infamous “hot coffee” lawsuit against McDonalds. This documentary, however, is not just about opening everyone’s eyes to the jaw dropping injuries that Stella Liebeck, the then 79-year old woman sustained from spilling some scalding hot coffee on herself. It reveals how McDonalds had previously received 700 complaints about the ridiculously hot coffee.

Moreover, the film shows how some  corporations have spent many hundreds of million dollars on distorting the truth about tort claims — from “tort reform” to caps on damages. Trial lawyers are conveniently pegged as the villains, while insurance companies are portrayed as the victims: a comedy and utter tragedy at the same time.

A doctor specializing in burn injuries explains in “Hot Coffee,” that the holding temperature for coffee was so hot that at best, if the coffee touched one’s skin for a few seconds, one would suffer 3rd degree burns. Regardless, McDonalds chose to ignore the obvious threat to its customers’ safety until brave Ms. Liebeck attempted to hold them accountable.

The film also features a couple of other poignant stories: One, about an ex-Halliburton worker who was brutally raped by her coworkers in Iraq; but denied the ability to sue her employer/employees thanks to a mandatory arbitration clause. The other story is a needlessly tragic situation, where one twin boy was brain damaged in utero, because of a negligent doctor. That family was essentially robbed of the jury verdict due to the state’s cap on damages.

Buy this DVD for all of your friends, family, neighbors, etc., so that they learn how many corporations are attempting to dismantle the civil justice system.

Keep State Agencies In Check

In case you missed it, an insightful editorial appeared in this Sunday’s The Columbian, “Courts keep failures by state agencies in check.” Magana and Wieland point out the serous problems with endorsing special legal protections for state government agencies whose negligent actions or inactions cause harm to citizens. 

Importantly, Magana and Wieland explain that “government is never responsible for anyone’s actions but its own, and is never judged on any failures or bad choices except for its own.” Only if “but for” the government’s failures did an injury arise, then it could it then be held liable.

Please read the piece in its entirety for a thoughtful and accurate explanation to understand why we must continue to hold the government accountable via lawsuits in Washington state.

In the interest of full disclosure, one of the authors of this editorial is Jesse Magana, a client of Stritmatter Kessler Whelan.

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