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Articles Posted in Products Liability

As a Central Syracuse New York products liability lawyer, I take a keen interest in news about dangerous products or false safety claims by manufacturers. That’s why an article in the New York Times caught my eye yesterday. The article talked about how United States Senator Tom Udall (Democrat, NM) is formally requesting that the Federal Trade Commission investigate the alleged deceptive advertising practices of sports helmet manufacturers.

The senator says two major helmet manufacturers, Riddell and Schutt, have been fooling the public with their claims to increased concussion prevention. But Udall has his crosshairs mostly on Riddell, whose ads claim that that its “Revolution” helmets decrease the risk of concussions by as much as 31 percent. This 31 percent figure is deemed deceptive because the “Revolution” helmets were compared with second-hand helmets in unknown condition and with unknown manufacture date.

The advertising is clearly aimed at cashing in on parents’ increasing worries about the long-term effects of concussions on their child-athletes .

If you’re like me, you wouldn’t mind being Spiderman. Hey, he’s got a cool way of getting around, shooting spider-gook from his wrists and swinging around town. Beats driving in city traffic.

But every job has its drawbacks, even Spiderman’s. We learned this week that he plummeted 30 feet during Monday night’s performance of the Broadway production, “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark”. Doctors say he is in serious condition, with broken ribs and internal bleeding.

Little is known about how this accident happened. We do know, however, that somehow the wire he was swinging from failed. (In this Broadway show, he was swinging from wires rather than his spider-gook — go figure!) We do not know whether the wire failed because it snapped or because it became unfastened. Either way, it appears certain that Spiderman was the victim of someone’s negligence (unless it was Green Goblin’s sabotage).

Convenience and safety often clash. Quick example: In the old days, before the era of car seats and booster seats, getting the kids into the car was so easy, so convenient. You just threw them in and off you went. Early on, there weren’t even seatbelts. Only problem was that kids were getting mangled, crushed and killed in car accidents. Enter car seats and booster seats. What a pain in the a–! All that strapping in, tying down. Inconvenient, isn’t it? But safe.

Now let’s take cribs. Several decades ago some smart engineers invented a great convenience: Drop-side cribs (see photograph featured here). No more leaning over the side of the crib to awkwardly place baby to bed. It was a hit!

Only problem was babies were dying. The drop-side sometimes created a V-shaped gap between the mattress and side rail where babies got caught, suffocated and died. At least 32 infants have died this way since 2000.

OK, I’ll admit it. I have never gotten a $66 Million Dollar verdict. Although all the lawyers in our firm have either gotten million dollar settlements or verdicts, and even multimillion dollar ones, we have never come close to that number. $66 million? That’s a lot of money. That’s a Western New York personal injury verdict record. And that’s what a Western, NY jury awarded a woman who suffered severe spinal in a workplace accident last week.

I am sure there was very good lawyering here (hats off to Michael Law, a good friend of this law firm, and his partner Kevin English) but that alone can’t explain a verdict of that size. In my experience as a Central New York personal injury lawyer, a jury will only give that much money away when (1) it really dislikes the defendant, and/or (2) the injuries are devastating beyond belief.

Both of these things appear to have been present here. This was not just a run-of-the-mill back injury. This twenty-something woman was rendered quadriplegic after a large piece of exercise equipment toppled onto her, shattering her cervical vertebrae, and causing massive spinal cord damage.

I don’t know about you, but every time I back my car out of my driveway or in the supermarket parking lot, I worry about hidden toddlers. This could be a side affect of my job as a Central New York personal injury lawyer. But it could also be because I have read way too many reports of toddlers getting backed up over by cars, pickup trucks and SUV’s. The problem is that small children are below the view of your rearview mirror.

So I was glad to come across a Bloomberg article yesterday reporting that rearview cameras with in-vehicle displays will probably be required in new cars and trucks by the year 2014. The auto industry will, of course, oppose this requirement, but hey, they also opposed requiring seatbelts and airbags in their day, and look how many lives those have saved.

I remember a story I read in the Geneva Finger Lakes Times last year where, in Geneva, New York, an uncle backed his car out of his driveway and ran over his 3 year-old nephew. After the accident, he disappeared for a few days while he contemplated suicide.

In a blog post earlier this week, I talked about last Saturday’s Seneca Lake boat accident that killed the owner of the Glen Harbor Marina and injured the Marina’s head mechanic. More recent news reports now indicate that the accident may have been caused by a defective steering system in the high-speed boat.

If in fact the steering system was at fault, the family of the deceased boating accident victim, along with the injured survivor, may both have a New York products liability (defective products) case against the manufacturer of the boat for marketing and selling a boat with a defectively designed or manufactured steering system.

The two men were test driving the high-speed boat when, according to the survivor (the Marina’s mechanic), the steering, on its own, started malfunctioning, causing a sharp turn that threw the two into the water.

Let’s say a guy with a completely limp arm walks into my office. The arm just hangs there, lifeless. The guy will never be able to use that arm again. What happened? Let’s say his sleeve got caught in a machine, which drew in his arm, and that his arm was stuck in the machine for many hours while emergency response teams tried to extricate him. My client appears blameless. He was just doing his job the way he always did it, and the way his employer instructed him to do it. Why did the machine suck his arm in? Was it defectively designed? Was it improperly maintained? Why wasn’t there a kill switch he could reach? Were the warnings and instructions on it sufficiently clear? Was my client simply not trained right on how to use it?

These facts are similar to several cases I have handled, including one I just recently took in. And I can’t answer those questions I just posed, at least not yet. New York workplace injury lawyers like me need to rely on engineers to help us answer these questions. The main question, though, is whether the machine was “defective”. By “defective” I mean “unreasonably dangerous”, which is the standard for proving a New York product liability lawsuit. My client has a case only if the machine is “defective”, and the engineer’s main job is to determine whether it is defective.

I have already consulted with such an engineer. We are going to carefully examine the machine together. My expert engineer will then be able to tell me whether, in his opinion, the machine was defective. He will research the relevant standards for designing and building such machines during the time period when this machine was built, and also will research the standard warnings and instructions that should be placed on this kind of machine.

So you say you don’t like tort lawyers, product liability lawsuits, or personal injury cases? Well, guess what? You need them, as demonstrated (once again) by the headlines in the New York Times!

The New York Times reports that, as early as the fall of 1999, SmithKline Beecham, maker of a popular diabetes medicine called “Avandia”, found out, through studies it conducted, that the drug posed significantly greater cardiac risks than other leading diabetes medicines. So what did they do about it? Let’s see how smart you are with this multiple choice test: Did SmithKline Beecham: (a) stop production of Avandia; (b) call the FDA and informed them; (c) do more studies to make sure; or (d) bury the study, tell no one, and continue to churn out huge profits on the sale of the dangerous medicine.

If you guessed “d”, you get a gold star, not only for getting the right answer, but for understanding how corporate America, with its single-minded profit-lust, works.

As a mere local Central New York personal injury attorney, I really didn’t want to get into commenting on the national disaster that is the ongoing Gulf of Mexico BP oil “spill”. (I put “spill” in quotes because this word, bantered about by BP and echoed by news media, hardly seems appropriate. It is more like an underwater oil “volcano”. Take a look at the video of it here).

I don’t even want to comment about the “perfect storm” combination of cascading mistakes that led to the “spill” itself. After all, as an accident lawyer, I know all too well that big-company accidents, even cascading series of them, are all too common (because corporate cost-cutting carelessness is all too common). Nothing new here. BP, join the club of about a zillion other big corporations who have injured countless Americans with their crappy defective products!

And, heck, I don’t even feel like commenting about BP’s deliberately underestimating the extent of the “spill”. Corporate lies are just too common to push my buttons.

What is the worst kind of defective product? A good candidate is a baby-killer. And that is what the Infanto Baby Slings “SlingRider” and “Wendy Bellissimo” (sold by several large retailiers such as Target, Babies R Us and Burlington Coat) turned out to be.

Today the federal agency responsible for consumer safety, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), recalled more than 1 million Infanto baby slings after they apparently caused at least three infant deaths BY SUFFOCATION. The slings are especially dangerous for infants under 4 months old. Babies can suffocate in them in two ways: First, the baby’s nose and mouth can get pressed against the sling’s soft fabric, thereby blocking its ability to breathe (or cry out in distress). Second, if the baby is placed in the curved position (c-like), the baby’s head can flop forward, chin-to-chest, reducing the ability of the infant to breathe (or cry out in distress). Small infants’ necks are not strong enough to pick their head up out of this position.

This story is personally distressful to me because of my own blissful experience with baby slings. Baby slings became popular about a dozen years ago, when my boys were still infants. They are great because they allow on-the-go parents (like me and my wife) to bond closely with their babies as they go about their business. I remember a trip we took to New Orleans where I had my one-year old cuddled up against my chest as we strolled all over the French Quarter. He was so peaceful in that sling, with his little head peeking out over the lip of it, checking out the Bourbon Street scene!

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