Olympia, Wash.: “A community college says it’s the pride of their automotive technology program: a rare Dodge Viper donated to their school worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.” It’s believed to be the fourth one off the assembly line. But now Chrysler has “ordered the destruction of their entire educational Viper fleet.” It seems that while the prototypes were never meant to be driven on public roads, “two of them somehow got out and into accidents, costing Chrysler’s parent company millions of dollars.” Things might be different if our law respected a sale or other contractual agreement between Chrysler and the school as reason to release the manufacturer from a suit filed by an injured third party. But it doesn’t. Chrysler’s deadline for ordering the cars crushed has now passed; no word at present as to whether any of the cars have been reprieved or otherwise survived. [KING, AutoWeek, Tacoma News Tribune, Motor Trend]
The capabilities of onboard GPS systems keep getting more impressive. And the product liability implications might nudge Detroit into using the information in ways unwelcome to customers, for fear of being blamed otherwise for crashes they might have prevented. [Volokh]
After pleading guilty to driving under the influence, two New Jersey men “subsequently brought a product liability action against the company that made the breath-testing device used to establish their BACs as being in excess of .08%.” Asking for class action status on behalf of all New Jersey drivers convicted after blowing into the device, the “plaintiffs claimed that ‘the Alcotest 7110 contains latent design defects in that it is a piece of respiratory equipment that is not standardized at frequent intervals and there is no provision for calibration of its pulmonary reporting apparatus.’” A court ruled the complaint inadequate on the pleadings, though it has given them a chance to replead. [Steve McConnell, Drug and Device Law]
“Four Pittsburgh firefighters are suing seven companies that manufacture fire trucks or sirens, claiming they’ve lost hearing due to the blaring sirens. … They contend the manufacturers should have insulated the sirens to protect their hearing and/or provided warnings about their use.” [Claims Journal]
A new empirical study from Joanna Shepherd (Emory) in the Vanderbilt Law Review looks at the question (via Chris Robinette/TortsProf). Among the conclusions:
My empirical results indicate that several reforms that restrict the scope of products liability have a significant impact on economic activity. Statutes of repose that limit the time period for which manufacturers are liable for product defects, comparative negligence reforms that reduce damage awards when plaintiffs engage in negligent activity, and reforms that eliminate strict liability for nonmanufacturer product sellers are all associated with statistically significant increases in economic activity. Specifically, my results suggest that these reforms increase the number of businesses, employment, and production in the industries that bear most of the products liability claims: the manufacturing, retail, distribution, wholesale, and insurance industries.
In contrast, other reforms have a weak effect on economic activity. My results suggest that caps on noneconomic damages and reforms to the traditional collateral source rule are only weakly associated with increases in economic activity. Meanwhile, caps on punitive damages and reforms eliminating joint and several liability are weakly associated with decreases in certain measures of economic activity.
Megan McArdle, in her annual holiday guide to kitchen gadget buying:
If you don’t want quite this much capacity — if you’re cooking for one or two, and hate leftovers — then I recommend getting an older (pre-1990) crockpot off of eBay. In recent years, food safety regulations and fear of liability has caused manufacturers to raise the heat on their slow cookers, which means the food cooks faster. I entertain enough that I reluctantly gave up lower heat for larger capacity (old crockpots tend to come in 2-3 quart sizes, rather than the 5-6 quarts that are standard now.) But only an older crockpot will give you really low and slow cooking.
Helmet-manufacturer Riddell may have beaten the rap concerning a 2006 injury to a ninth-grader who suffered a stroke at football practice, but many other lawsuits against helmet manufacturers continue to loom on the horizon. [Insurance Journal]
“Unfortunately for Mr. Korte, as he fired the crossbow, he stuck his thumb in the path of the bow string, which is a major no-no. … Mr. Korte has, of course, filed a lawsuit against Hunter’s Manufacturing Company (d/b/a TenPoint) and Cabela’s Retail.” [Madison County Record via Abnormal Use]
A Texas appeals court has affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit seeking to hold Anheuser-Busch liable for an assault suffered by a bar patron. The suit alleged that the long-neck design of the bottle made it too attractive for assailants seeking a weapon; the court agreed with the brewer that the plaintiff had failed to make out a sufficient case to avoid summary judgment. [Wajert, Mass Tort Defense]
Should a product manufacturer be held liable for not warning in other languages that are foreseeably spoken/read by some of its end users? How about if it marketed its product in some of those languages? [Nick Farr, Abnormal Use]
An American producer is bankrupt because it couldn’t idiot-proof its product sufficiently to ward off the attentions of our product liability system. The next gas can you buy will probably come from somewhere like China, whose manufacturers are apt to be less reachable by American plaintiffs. [Point of Law]