Posts Tagged ‘products liability’

Seat Belt Recall

May 4, 2008

Toyota Motor Corp. has recalled 90,189 Highlander SUV’s because third-row seat belts may not lock in some child-safety seats.  So far, there have been no complaints of injuries as a result of the defect, but what if there had been?

The U. S. Chamber of Commerce talks about frivilous lawsuits and the need for extreme tort reform measures.  Those measures infringe upon the rights of individuals who are seriously injured or killed as a result of defects such as these.  Had one of these seat belts malfunctioned and led to the death of a child, shouldn’t Toyota be held responsible?  Toyota wouldn’t be responsible because they intended to kill someone, but our laws say that if you put a product into the stream of commerce and that product is defective, you are liable for the damages you cause.  That’s not frivilous.  THAT’S THE LAW!!!!

Ford Wins

January 19, 2008

Ford won a products liability lawsuit in Henry County, Alabama on Tuesday, January 15, 2008.  The case arose from an accident which occurred in 2000 wherein a 28 year old woman, Pamela Jackson Davis, was thrown from the Ford Expedition.  According to the complaint, Ms. Jackson’s estate alleged that the seat belt and the glass were defective, and had they not been, Ms. Jackson would have survived the crash.  Ford, however, argued that she was not wearing her seat belt and that the glass was not defective.

Apparently, the jury agreed with Ford.  The attorney for Ford, Harlan Prater of the Birmingham law firm Lightfoot Franklin White, LLC, expressed sympathy for the family of Ms. Davis; however, he was glad to see the jury saw that the Ford Expedition was a good, safe vehicle.

This case is another example of juries getting it right.  When the jury rules in favor of the defendant, you don’t hear plaintiff attorneys complaining.  They know that their clients were given a fair shot at proving their case, and a jury of their peers made a decision.  When that happens, they live with the jury’s decision.  Why do businesses, corporations, insurance companies, etc. always say the jury got it wrong when they lose?  Some might call this being a sore loser.  I think, however, that these entities just don’t like it when twelve people rule that they did something careless, reckless, and wrong, and even worse, they cannot stand to lose money.  Follow the dollar.

Merck Changes Mind

November 13, 2007

Merck vowed to fight til the death.  They vowed to litigate each Vioxx case to conclusion.  Apparently, that vow only applied until the statute of limitations ran on most of the cases. 

On Friday, November 9, 2007, Merck agreed to a global settlement for the Vioxx cases in the amount of $4.85 billion dollars.  According to Merck’s executive vice president, Kenneth Frazier, “without this settlement, the litigation might very well stretch on for years.”  Didn’t they know this when they defiantly stated they would try each case?  Surely, their thousands of attorneys making enormous hourly rates informed them of this fact.  So, why settle at this stage of the game?  After only fifteen (15) trials (they estimate that there are 45,000-50,000 lawsuits pending)?  That’s a far cry from fighting to the death.

Maybe it’s because Merck knows it has problems.  In fact, in the settlement agreement, Merck makes a huge concession which contradicts its position over the last few years.  To qualify for the settlement, claimants will have to show that they received enough pills to support a presumption that they were ingested within two weeks before injury.  Previously, Merck claimed that Vioxx caused harm only after eighteen (18) months of use.  Hmmm.  That’s a pretty big concession from a company that was fighting every case to verdict.

A Montgomery, Alabama attorney, Andy Birchfield, a partner with the law firm Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis, & Miles, P.C. led the negotiating committee for the MDL (Multi District Litigation).  According to Jere Beasley, “it was a very good settlement which will ensure that those who suffered injuries as a result of Vioxx are compensated fairly and efficiently.”  Isn’t that what Merck should have done to begin with?

Wal-Mart Verdict

April 21, 2007

Greg Allen, of the law firm Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, P.C., obtained a $4 million verdict in Montgomery County, Alabama.  The case involved a tire tread separation on a Ford Expedition which caused the SUV to roll over and crush the roof of the vehicle.  Carolyn Thorne was left paralyzed as a result. 

Why was Wal-Mart a defendant?  Continental Tire Company of North America had issued a recall for the particular tire.  Notwithstanding the recall, the employees of Wal-Mart, who serviced Ms. Thorne’s Expedition on nine (9) occasions AFTER the recall, failed to notify her of the problem.  Apparently, Wal-Mart has a policy of only disclosing recalls on tires if Wal-Mart sold the tire.

Here is another occasion where a small effort could have prevented a huge injury.  Various government web sites show all of the product recalls (many appear on this blog).  All a company has to do is access its computers.  How much time would it have taken for Wal-Mart to check the model of Ms. Thorne’s tires in order to determine if a recall had been issued?  In fact, the Wal-Mart service department could probably have a notification automatically sent to them when a product has been recalled.  Ms. Thorne put her trust in Wal-Mart to properly service her tires.  She thought they were the professionals.  Unfortunately, for her and her family, Wal-Mart did as many companies do:  put the minimum effort into their service for the maximum price.


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