Subject: Re: ACT NOW TO OPPOSE PRODUCT LIABILITY REFORM
From: email@example.com (Gerald L. Hurst)
Date: Apr 04 1995
In article <firstname.lastname@example.org>, email@example.com (CKarney)
>Senate hearings on the product liability reform bill (S.565) will be held
>on April 3 and 4. This bill would seriously limit the rights of
>individuals with legitimate product liability claims......
As an expert (chemist) frequently handling fire and explosion product
liability cases for both sides, I have mixed feelings about this
legislation. On the one hand, I have helped defend manufacturers who won
their cases because the fear of punitive damages had made them cautious
enough to build their appliances well enough to persuade the jury the fire
started elswhere. Some (certainly not all) of these mfgrs will react to
the new legislation in such a way as to save a few bucks on the cost of
plastics, power supplies, etc and accident rates will go up.
On the other paw, I've seen a gawdawful lot of technically frivolous
lawsuits won by incompetent but expensive "experts" who would never have
been hired by the penniless plaintiff's contingency lawyer if it weren't
for those extra damages or the smaller but quicker payout in nuisance
Even your local gas company bases its inspections and maintenance on the
relative economics of lawsuits vs repair costs. Watch what happens within
a few years if the legislation goes through.
I guess I finally come down against the bill, but then I guess my bread is
potentially better buttered on that side :)
Subject: Re: Lawsuit against fertilizer mfr (Okl city bombing)
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Gerald L. Hurst)
Date: May 18 1995
In article <email@example.com>, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Lloyd R. Parker) says:
>: Consequently, if the
>: fertilizer can easily be changed to lose it's bombing qualities while
>: retaining all of it's fertilizing qualities AND the company reasonably
>: foresaw the killings then there could be an argument for liability.
>Actually, a judge in California has allowed a gunshot victim to sue the
>gun maker, the argument being that the gun maker should have reasonably
>foreseen that the product was dangerous.
Judges are likely to let people sue over most anything and let the trial
sort out the mess; that is why we have the push in congress to limit
I had a case once (consulting) in which a young man found some of those
little firework torpedos with the non-PC in the parking lot of a
bowling alley and stuffed them in his pocket. According to his complaint,
he tossed the ball down the alley and at that moment his left pocket
erupted causing him to dance around furiously and yank down his pants and
receive burns to a portion of his anatomy where no man should suffer.
So ... whom did he sue? The (Asian) company which had manufactured the
butane cigaret lighter he happened to have in his pocket. The theory was
that the bowling motion caused the flint wheel to turn, creating a spark
which ignited a fuse on one of the fireworks. His attorney brought in a
shave-tail engineer who testified in his deposition that the standard
pocket lighter is unreasonably dangerous because there is no safety clutch
or brake on the flint wheel and that the manufacturer should have foreseen
that this omission constituted an unnecessary hazard.
This case never went to trial, but settled for a ridiculously high amount
to avoid the otherwise higher cost of defending the suit in court as is
frequently the case with frivolous suits.
I am currently aware of a pending case in which a woman shot herself in
the leg with her major name brand (semi-)automatic pistol. Of course, the
allegation is that the gun malfunctioned, despite the fact that it had
been modified and repaired in jury-rig fashion. This is another case
looking for a nuisance settlement.
Or how about a case in which an explosion occured in a very small room
containing 120 lbs of smokeless powder and thousands of primers. The
explosion pushed a couple of walls a few inches only, but sent a fire ball
through the house resulting in two burned and orphaned children. The
family sued guess who? he manufacturer of the computer printer which was
also in the room. Theory? The printer shorted, got very hot as a result
and released an explosive aerosol as the plastic decomposed. The aerosol
concentration increased until the lower explosive limit was reached and
Absurd you say? Idiotic? Nope, both the plaintiff and defendant attorneys
checked with local gunshops and national powder manufacturers and became
convinced that "Gunpowder does not explode unless it is confined." It took
the defendant's expert (me) a couple of years to convince the truly
exceptionally intelligent team of defense lawyers and other experts that
the propellant was the culprit, and this was first accomplished the night
before the trial when I visited another expert in his apartment and put on
a demonstration of the explosion of "unconfined powder," We videotaped the
demo the second time around in such a way as to demonstrate both the
pressure and fireball effects. The Jury (and our own lawyers), because of
the press of time, saw the video tape in detail for the first time in the
courtroom. We won the case, but it cost at least half a million to
prepare and try it.
Oops, shut him down - he's telling old war stories again --