Articles Posted in Products Liability

Last week, Sheryl Sandburg’s (Facebook’s second-in-command) suffered a big loss. Her husband, David Goldberg, died after cracking open his head in a fall off a treadmill. Dave Goldberg was a Silicon Valley giant in his own right, too (digital-music entrepreneur, Yahoo executive). You can read about him here.

But I am not blogging about Mr. Goldberg or his famous wife. Instead, I am blogging about the cause of his death: A treadmill.

Treadmills are the most popular piece of exercise equipment today. Go to any Y or health club and you will see row upon row of them. More than 50 million Americans use them. I am one of them.

As an avid skier, I was distraught to read about another terrible chairlift malfunction at Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine. The chairlift suddenly started moving swiftly backward. Seven skiers were pretty seriously injured, some of them because they removed their skis and jumped to “safety” from the chairlift, fearing that they would be more severely hurt if they wound up getting spun through the chair housing unit at the bottom. More than 200 people were later evacuated from the chairlift over a 90-minute period.

This isn’t the first time a chairlift malfunctioned at Sugarloaf. In December of 2010, a chairlift cable derailed, dropping 5 chairs violently to the ground. Five adults and three kids were injured in that accident. That time Sugarloaf was at fault for negligent operation of the lift. Sugarloaf paid out-of-court settlements to the victims.

This time the manufacturer of the chairlift – Partek Ski Lifts — is to blame. Engineers believe a design flaw prevented a safety system from locking the chairlift in place after a mechanical failure caused it to begin moving in reverse.

It’s all over the news: Seventy-four year old Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s power workout “backfired” on him. Literally.

In a freak accident, the senator was using an “elastic exercise band” to do some kind of exercise in his bathroom, with the band attached somehow to his shower door. As he “flexed”, the band “snapped” and sent him flying across his bathroom floor where his face met some cabinets. He suffered such severe facial injuries that he risks losing the sight in one eye. He also broke a number of bones around his right eye and four ribs. See photo!


A couple of years ago, I developed arterial fibrillation, more commonly known as “afib”, which is not uncommon with people 50 and older. My dad had it from the time he was 50 until he died at age 86. It’s not life threatening, but does raise the risk of blood clots, which can lead to strokes.

The treatment? Blood thinners. “Thin” blood can’t clot so easily, and thus prevents stokes. My dad used the blood thinner of his era – Coumadin (warfarin) – for 35 years. The problem with Coumadin was it was not user friendly. Dosage depended on diet, age, and other medications being taken. With Coumadin, patients had to get blood tests monthly or more often and watch their intake of vitamin K, which could lessen the effectiveness of warfarin.

Coumadin – with all those hassles – is now considered “old school”. I am using a new generation blood thinner called “Xarelto” (rivaroxaban). The advantage of Xarelto over Coumadin is that one size fits all. Almost anyone can take 20 miligrams and be protected from blood clotting, and thus protected from strokes. No need for monthly blood tests. Just pop the pill once a day and your good.

Making big auto companies self-report to the government fatal accidents and injuries caused by their vehicles is kind of like having the fox report to the farmer how many hens he ate. The fox is likely to under-report.

Same with Honda. And as a result, the “farmer” (the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration — our top federal auto safety agency) has fined Honda a record $70 million for its gross under-reporting.

The penalty is double the one slapped on General Motors just last year for being slow to identify safety problems.

A New York Times article recently highlighted the consequence of many state’s “tort deform reform” laws: Victims of devastating corporate safety lapses can’t find a lawyer willing to represent them.

The article gives several examples of how tort deform reform is killing cases where corporate negligence has killed people. For example, a defective ignition switch caused a Wisconsin victim’s car ignition to suddenly power off, causing him to lose control of the car, hit a tree, and die. The car ignition failure also caused the air bag system to fail. G.M. had received many reports of similar incidents involving the defective ignition switch before this victim died. In fact, at least 42 people had died under similar circumstances.

Yet when the family went looking for a lawyer for what they thought would be a “slam dunk” case, they got the same response from every lawyer they turned to: None were willing to take the case because of a Wisconsin “tort reform” law limiting recovery “for loss of society” to $350,000. Because of the extreme expense – estimated at $300,000 — of suing a big corporation like G.M. for a complicated mechanical defect, it just did not make economic sense for a law firm to take the case on.

Can you sue for compensation beyond your workers’ compensation benefits if you are injured on the job in New York? Maybe. Find out how by watching my new video about New York personal injury lawsuits for on-the-job injuries.

Keep safe!

Mike Bersani

Marijuana is now legal for medical purposes in about twenty States and for recreational purposes in two (Colorado and Washington). New York appears poised to follow suit, at least for medical purposes. That makes for a lot of legal pot smoking. But not everyone who wants, or medically needs, marijuana’s effects likes to smoke. So marijuana stores are stocking up on tasty ways for customers to eat their way to that same high, including gummy bears, dew drops, chocolate truffles, and other sweets all laced with mind-altering THC. Some of them contain ten times as much psychoactive THC as a casual pot smoker might take.

So what’s the problem? Once a customer removes these goodies from their carefully labeled “marijuana” bags or boxes, they look just like the sweets commonly available in any grocery store candy aisles. They don’t look like a drug. In fact, they look like pretty tasty treats. They then become an “attractive nuisance” to the unwary and hungry. Small children are especially attracted to the colorful delicious looking candies or chocolates. Unsolicited, unexpected highs are bound to happen.

This is not just a hypothetical problem. The New York Times reports that a growing number of children are seeking treatment after accidentally consuming marijuana. The children, many of them toddlers, are taken to the ER because they seemed strangely sleepy and disoriented.

CNBC reports that those sci-fi-like, self-driven cars (“SDC’s”), also called “automated cars”, will account for half of all vehicles on the road by the year 2035, with the first ones hitting the market by 2020. (You can see one operated here). The first generation of these vehicles will require someone in the driver’s seat just in case the technology develops a problem–much like an aircraft autopilot. Truly independent SDCs requiring no human involvement will begin to be offered by 2030. (I blogged about these new cars here).

But CNBC also reports that Nissan Motor, one of the leaders of the new technology, cautioned that “because of the litigious nature of the American market, manufacturers might have to steer clear of the U.S. unless legislators take steps to protect the industry from a flood of frivolous lawsuits”.

Forgive my skepticism, Nissan, but that is pure baloney. First, why would you fear “frivolous” lawsuits? If the lawsuits are frivolous, you will beat them and they will cost you almost nothing. What you are really afraid of are meritorious lawsuits, ones that will hold you accountable for the death and destruction your negligent design may cause.

…………….. Your Central New York Injury Lawyer is still blogging on the topic of gun control. New York recently passed an assault rifle ban. Other states will follow. An argument against such laws I have been hearing recently is, “more people are killed in car accidents than by shootings, so why don’t we ban cars?”. In other words, what fools you are for banning assault rifles!

But the analogy fails, and this blog post will explain why.

What’s the difference between banning automobiles and banning assault rifles? They both kill, they’re both dangerous, and cars may even be more dangerous! So why ban assault rifles and not cars? Think about it! I bet you can guess. Don’t give up!

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