Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania: “A jury in a Luzerne County civil case ruled that PennDOT was partially responsible for a deadly crash in 2011 that killed a 15-year-old girl, even though the driver of the SUV was driving at roughly twice the speed limit and did not have a driver’s license.” While the driver admitted he was going nearly 90 miles an hour when he lost control, the family’s lawyer “told jurors in closing arguments that PennDOT’s own manuals showed Suscon Road needed more so-called chevron signs that reflect light and warn of an upcoming sharp curve.” [WNEP]
“[An Indiana appeals] court has found that an ever so slightly negligent (2%) business owner needs to pay for 99% of the harm caused by a murderer. Citing the Restatement (Third) of Torts. Section 14, a public policy in favor of adequately compensating the wronged … and the difficulty murderers have in procuring insurance to cover their rampages, the appellate court in Santelli v. Rahmatulla found that the Restatement provides a handy way of escaping Indiana’s reform of its joint and several liability rule.” [David Oliver] More: Point of Law (motel “[adhered] to the non-discriminatory EEOC principle of not performing criminal background checks”).
Following the horrific murder-suicide of a woman who intentionally drowned herself and three of her four children, the woman’s estranged boyfriend is suing the city of Newburgh, N.Y. and its surrounding county for failing to prevent the crime. Joint and several liability reform would help, if only Albany were more sympathetic to the cause. [Thomas Stebbins, Poughkeepsie Journal; Daily News]
- Mayor La Guardia on overlawyering [Lawrence Cunningham, Concur Op]
- Update: “Forever 21 Backs Off On Blogger Lawsuit” [Jezebel via @LawandLit, earlier]
- Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett signs joint and several liability reform [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review]
- Legislation introduced in Trenton to overturn New Jersey Supreme Court decision OKing suits by drunk drivers against bars that served them [NJLRA, earlier]
- Angelos firm scores $495 million award against Exxon in Baltimore gas leak [Sun]
- How plea bargaining warps justice [Tim Lynch, Reason]
- California considers following New York’s lead in regulating employment of domestic workers [Workplace Prof]
- The appalling reign of California’s prison guards union [Tim Kowal, League of Ordinary Gentlemen via Tim Cavanaugh; Steven Malanga, City Journal; earlier]
- Defense side, including dozens of sued bloggers, begins to respond in “Rakofsky v. Internet” case [Turkewitz, Popehat, earlier]
- Point/counterpoint on class action arbitration clauses [Karlsgodt]
- Group plans to Twitter-fy the novel Ulysses via crowdsourcing in time for Bloomsday, but let’s hope nobody tells litigation-prone Joyce heir [Ulysses Meets Twitter 2011 via BoingBoing]
- Battle over reform of joint and several liability continues in Pennsylvania legislature [Wajert]
- From Miami, latest dramatic tale of cops vs. citizen video-taking [David Rittgers, Cato at Liberty] New Jersey bill would criminalize taking photos of kids in many circumstances [Nicole Ciandella, CEI, see also]
- Australia: “Man Gets Workers’ Comp for Injury Sustained When Punching Customer” [Lowering the Bar]
- He wuz framed? Lawyers say wearing glasses will help a criminal defendant win acquittal [NYDN, ABA Journal]
- “Are Judges ‘Employees’ Covered by State Antidiscrimination Law?” [Volokh, Fox]
- Pursuing food safety, Congress ensures only unintended consequences [Paul Schwennesen, The Freeman]
- High cost of litigation for Louisiana cities and towns [LLAW, PDF, via NJLRA; Daily Comet]
- Calif. Kwikset decision not entirely a debacle for defendants [Russell Jackson, earlier] More: Cal. Civil Justice.
- Pennsylvania lawmakers consider reform of joint and several liability [Post-Gazette]
- Lawsuit fears tame a Frederick, Md. ice playground [Free-Range Kids]
- Following scrutiny by Albuquerque newspaper, lawyer drops life insurance class action settlement [ten years ago on Overlawyered]
In 2007, on Highway 101 north of Ventura, Jeremy White plowed his pickup truck into a vehicle parked along the roadside, killing its driver and paralyzing a California highway patrolman who was standing alongside. White “pleaded guilty in September 2008 to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and selling and transporting marijuana. He was sentenced to 15 years.” While he had an insurance policy, its limit was a paltry $15,000. So which deep pockets will be left responsible for paying the nearly $50 million a jury has awarded in damages? The answer, apparently: 1) White’s insurance company, despite the policy limit, due to the magic of “insurance bad faith” law; 2) Bert’s Mega Mall in Covina, whose employees, according to the plaintiffs in the case, “didn’t properly strap down two dirt bikes in the back of White’s truck, which caused a distraction and contributed to the crash.”
After the trial ended Tuesday, the mall’s lawyer, Terrence Cranert, said they would appeal.
He said there was significant evidence the jury didn’t receive, including a statement from White’s passenger who told the CHP that he and White had stopped to smoke marijuana after leaving the mall. Cranert said they weren’t able to find White’s passenger for the trial, but felt the information should have been allowed.
The judge, however, disagreed.
White’s passenger also told the CHP that he and White went into the back of the truck and opened a tool box to get the marijuana, according to Cranert. “They would have to unstrap the motorcycles,” Cranert said.
In May 2001, Cheryl Jane Hale was driving four children to a sleepover in her 1987 Ford Bronco. She didn’t bother to have the children wear their seat belts, so, when she took her eyes off the road to argue with the backseat passengers, and thus drove off the road and flipped the car, 12-year-old Jesse Branham was thrown from the car and suffered brain damage. A jury in Hampton County, South Carolina (the second jury to be impaneled—the first one was dismissed in a mistrial when it was discovered after two weeks of trial that five of the jurors were former clients of Branham’s lawyers) decided that this was only 45% Hale’s fault, held Ford 55% responsible, which puts Ford entirely on the hook for $31 million in damages.
On Monday, the South Carolina Supreme Court reversed because of prejudicial closing arguments that relied heavily on inadmissible evidence. More importantly for lawyers practicing in South Carolina, the Court adopted “the risk-utility test with its requirement of showing a feasible alternative design.”
How bad of a judicial hellhole is Hampton County? Though Hale was a co-defendant, she cooperated with the plaintiffs throughout the trial in their case against Ford, even sitting at the plaintiffs’ table; but because the judge classified Hale as a co-defendant, it meant that Hale got half of the peremptory challenges of the “defense.” More from Comer; no press coverage that I’ve seen yet. (cross-posted from Point of Law)
No doubt there are also other reasons why councilors might vote to keep daredevil and extreme skateboarders off public streets, as the L.A. Times is reporting, but the liability climate can’t help:
In 2004, a 17-year-old boy skating down a Mission Viejo street hit “an alleged defect in the street and took a tumble. In a bicycle he would have rolled right over it,” [self-insurance pool executive Jonathan] Shull said.
The boy suffered a brain injury and his family filed suit, alleging municipal negligence and asking for money to help care for him for the rest of his life.
Under state liability law, a city might have to pay the full settlement if a jury finds it was even 1% liable for the injury, according to Shull.
On November 14, 1999, high-school dropout Rolando Domingo Montez, celebrating his 19th birthday, was arrested for public intoxication and trespass after the owner of the boat on which he and his friends were sitting complained. Police placed him in Cell No. 1 of the Port Isabel City Jail. The next morning, Montez was permitted to make some collect calls from his jail cell to seek bail money from his mother, Pearl Iris Garza. Mom, complaining that Montez was in jail again, refused. But she generously came to pick up Montez on the 16th when he was released on his own recognizance. Unfortunately, while Garza was waiting in the lobby, and while police were responding to a call for assistance regarding a suspicious vehicle, Montez hung himself with the 19-inch phone cord from the phone he had used to make the calls.