February 24, 2010
February 22, 2010
In a time of carping about our “litigious society,” it’s time to recognize once more that litigation over dangerous products and services can avert countless deaths and injuries.
The courts provide an early warning system, alerting regulators and news organizations to hazards that the public wouldn’t otherwise be aware of. The courts also command responses from manufacturers who might have been able to fend off regulators. More important, the civil justice system is often the catalyst that forces lasting solutions.
In six years of reviews, NHTSA never used its authority to subpoena records from Toyota. But while the company was still dancing around the regulators’ requests in December, lawyers for Alberto’s family grilled a key Toyota official for two days. Other court cases were producing details about the company’s manufacturing processes.
By this time, Toyota had issued limited recalls. The company would soon make public acknowledgments and expand recalls. But while Toyota was focusing on the floor mats and “sticky” accelerator pedals, plaintiffs’ advocates and their experts raised the wider and more dangerous possibility of problems in the electronic system controlling the throttle in many Toyota models.
We have seen this pattern before. We no longer have the deadly Chevrolet Corvair or the exploding Ford Pinto, and we have a safer auto industry overall, largely because discoveries made in the courts prompted overhauls in regulation and oversight.
February 22, 2010
The award sounds pretty significant at first glance; $1.3 million for the death of a daughter and mother. Would any of us give our lives or the lives of our parents for that amount of money? But, it gets worse. In Texas, where the verdict was rendered, there are limitations on the amount of money a jury or judge can award for mental anguish, pain & suffering in medical malpractice cases. The award will be limited to $250,000 per defendant. Tort reform strikes again, and this time it punishes two young children and their grandmother who must raise them.
February 18, 2010
To summarize first here are the initial facts as newspapers printed the story. An elderly woman was given a hot cup of coffee that dropped into her lap. She claimed she had been injured by the hot coffee and was given an award by a jury that totaled in the millions. The media intimated the award was outrageous for just spilt coffee, than had talking heads continue the story by making fun of the victim as well. But there’s far more to the story than that.
It turns out the coffee was scalding hot, beyond that of the ordinary hot cup of coffee. The coffee poured into the woman’s lap, and as a result of severe burns, she was unale to walk and had to use a wheelchair for mobility. She had severe pain as well. According to the details spelled out in the case in legal archives, Stella Liebeck, age 79 at the time, was severely burned as a result of the hot coffee spill. She wasn’t dirving at the time, just attempting to remove the plastic lid from the cup. Her sweatpants absorbed the coffee, holding most of the scalding coffee close to the skin. An examination by a vascular surgeon determined Liebeck had full thickness, or third-degree burns, over 6% of her body. She was hospitalized for eight days for treatment, including skin grafting.
Liebeck asked McDonalds to pay her medical bills, attempting to settle her claim for $20,000. McDonalds refused, citing other cases of people who had been burned by the coffee. In other words, they knew the coffee was too hot, but used this knowledge as part of a defense, that folks recover; and it isn’t so bad. McDonalds had said their coffee was at 185 degrees, and people wanted it like that.
The case was appealed, and as a result took some time to resolve. The initial jury award was $200,000 in compensatory damages, reduced by 20% because Liebeck was found 20% responsible for what happened. The jury also gave an award of $2.7 million in punitive damages. That amount equals two days of McDonalds’ coffee sales, according to calculations of coffee sales by this large fast-food restaurant chain. A trial court eventually reduced punitive damages to $480,000, which was three times the compensatory damages given at the time of the first jury trial. This followed the judge calling McDonald’s conduct “reckless, callous and willful.”
What many people don’t know, or fail to understand, is that plaintiff attorneys don’t usually win their cases nor are most of those cases frivolous.
February 10, 2010
Let me repeat. A Mortgage is not a moral contract. It is a legal document between two parties spelling out obligations between them. There is nothing moral in this nor moral and morality has any room to wiggle its way in this agreement. If, during the course of the existence of this document, it turns out that it makes more economic sense for one party to breach the contract, then breach it. If it makes more sense to just walk away from a home you are struggling to pay mortgage on and the mortgage is for more than the house is worth, consider walking away. No Moral dilemma here. This is simply an economic/legal consideration.
The homeowner relief plan adopted by President Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has not been working for a full year now. What’s worse, as the program is currently structured, its chief benefits accrue directly to the nation’s largest banks, leaving troubled borrowers to twist in the wind. But despite the administration’s indifference, underwater borrowers can still take matters into their own hands. If you owe more than your house is worth, just walk away.
February 10, 2010
ITLA released a white paper entitled “The Whole Truth About Medical Malpractice and Insurance.” (Click on the link for a copy of the paper.) The paper examines and refutes the propaganda being spread by those seeking to destroy the tort system in Illinois.
February 9, 2010
While various news outlets have described the death of Congressman John Murtha’s (D-PA) as resulting from “complications following gallbladder surgery,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting that the “complications” involved an error by Murtha’s surgeons.
February 4, 2010
Much to the delight of all victims of medical malpractice and consumers in Illinois in general, the Supreme Court found that caps on non-economic damages as legislated by Illinois lawmakers was an unconstitutional interference of the legislative branch with the judicial branch of the government. This is a great victory for all victims of medical malpractice in Illinois. regrettably, the fight does not stop here and will now be focused, at least for us, to the Federal arena where Tort Reform is still a threat to all consumers and victims of malpractice.
The Illinois Supreme Court struck down the state’s medical malpractice law today, saying it violates separation of powers by allowing lawmakers to interfere with a judge’s ability to reduce verdicts.
The much-anticipated ruling, which challenged the constitutionality of damage caps for doctors and hospitals, is being watched closely by the health care industry and employers that see caps on damages as a way to tame rising health care costs.
The ruling could figure in the national health care debate of stalled health care legislation. In the U.S. Senate where Republicans have opposed existing health care reform legislation, the GOP has been vocal about the need for tort reform and caps on damages.