Toyota Recall II: Is Sudden Uncontrolled Acceleration Something To Be Worried About?

The pro-business blog Point of Law insists, citing to an article in Popular Mechanics, that the dangers posed by Toyota’s acceleration system are overblown. Meanwhile, Department of Transportation head Ray LaHood is telling Toyota owners to stop driving (at least until political concerns cause him to backtrack).
Who do you trust?
Someone should tell Popular Mechanics that forty-one percent of reports of sudden uncontrolled acceleration are about Toyotas. Meanwhile Toyota held about 16 percent of US market share in 2009. Sounds statistically significant to me.

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Consumer Product Safety Commission Tells Massachusetts Parents To Stop Using Cribs

Today the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued an immediate recall of “Generation 2 Worldwide” and “childESIGNS” drop side cribs because of the risk of death from suffocation or strangulation created by the cribs’ drop side design. The recall notice urges parents to stop using the cribs immediately and not to attempt to fix the cribs’ design flaws. Here is a copy of the notice in its entirety:
Generation 2 Worldwide and “ChildESIGNS” Drop Side Crib Brands Recalled; Three Infant Deaths Reported

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is announcing the recall of all Generation 2 Worldwide and “ChildESIGNS” drop side cribs. CPSC is warning parents and caregivers who own these drop side cribs that infants and toddlers are at risk of serious injury or death due to strangulation and suffocation hazards presented by the cribs. CPSC staff urges parents and caregivers to stop using these cribs immediately and find an alternative, safe sleeping environment for their baby. Do not attempt to fix these cribs.
The crib’s plastic hardware can break which can cause the drop side of the crib to detach from a corner of the crib. When the drop side detaches, it creates a space into which an infant or toddler can roll and become wedged or entrapped. When a child is entrapped between the drop side and the crib mattress, it creates a risk of suffocation or strangulation. In addition, the crib’s mattress support can detach from the crib frame, creating a hazardous space in which an infant or toddler could become entrapped and suffocate or strangle.
CPSC has received reports of three infants who suffocated when they became entrapped between the crib mattress and the drop side when the drop side detached. In July 2007, an eight month old child from Newark, Ohio suffocated when he became entrapped between the drop side and the crib mattress. The drop side of his crib had detached due to a broken plastic stop tab on the lower track. In October 2003, an eight month old child from Richmond, Ind. suffocated when he became entrapped between the drop side and the crib mattress. The plastic hardware on the drop side was broken and allowed the drop side to detach from the crib headboard in one corner. In September 2002, a six month old from Staunton, Va. suffocated when he became entrapped between the drop side and crib mattress. The lower drop side track was missing two screws which allowed it to pull away from the headboard post and detach.
CPSC has also received reports of 20 other drop side incidents, 12 of which involved the drop side detaching in a corner of the crib. In two of these incidents, a child became entrapped. One child suffered bruising from the entrapment. There are five reports of children falling out of the cribs due to drop side detachment. One child suffered a broken arm as a result of the fall.
In addition, CPSC has received 8 reports of mattress support detachment in these cribs. Due to the space created by the detachment, three children became entrapped between the crib frame and the sagging mattress and four children crawled out of the crib. There was one report of cuts and bruises.
Due to the fact that Generation 2 went out of business in 2005, CPSC has limited information about the cribs. Although CPSC does not know the total number of units distributed or the years of production, it is believed that there were more than 500,000 of these cribs sold to consumers. Some of the known model numbers are: 10-110X, 10-210X, 21-110X, 20-710X, 64-315X, 26-110X, 90-257X, 20-810X, 46-715X, 64-311X, 74-315X, 21-815X, 21-810X, 20815X, 308154 and 54915. (The “X” denotes where an additional and varying number may appear at the end of the model number.) However, all Generation 2 Worldwide and “ChildESIGNS” drop side cribs are included in this recall, including those with other model numbers.
The name “Generation 2 Worldwide” appears on a label affixed to the crib’s headboard or footboard. Some labels identify the place of manufacture as Dothan, Ala. Others identify China as the country of manufacture. The name “ChildESIGNS” appears on the teething rail of some of the cribs.
The recalled cribs were sold at numerous local furniture and retail stores including Buy Buy Baby, and Kmart and Walmart stores nationwide for between $60 and $160. Consumers should contact the store from which they purchased the crib for remedy information, which will vary between a refund, replacement crib or store credit, depending on the retailer. Consumers are urged to contact CPSC and report any difficulties in obtaining a remedy from their place of purchase.
Important Message from CPSC:
CPSC would like to remind parents not to use any crib with missing, broken, or loose parts. Make sure to tighten hardware from time to time to keep the crib sturdy. When using a drop-side crib, parents should check to make sure the drop-side or any other moving part operates smoothly. Always check all sides and corners of the crib for disengagement. Any disengagement can create a gap and entrap a child. In addition, do not try to repair any side of the crib, especially with tape, wire or rope.
For more information on Crib Safety, visit CPSC’s Crib Information Center.
Picture of Recalled Drop Side Crib Picture of name ‘ChildESIGNS’ on teething rail

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Surprising Statistic: In 2008 More Marines Died In Motorcycle Accidents Than In Iraq

I recently came across this statistic: in 2008 more US Marines died in motorcycle accidents than died in Iraq. The actual numbers: twenty-five Marines died in motorcycle accidents in 2008, twenty-two Marines were killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In response, the Marine Corps has produced “Semper Ride,” a motorcycle safety film. The film features many top bikers and motocross figures, including Ben Bronstom, Chris “Teach” McNeil and Josh Herrin.
The film makes many sensible points, including that no matter how good a rider you are, you can be the victim of a serious motorcycle accident if a car driver is careless even for a second. Also, if you’re a beginning rider, dirt biking is good training for learning to handle a motorcycle.
Upon reflection, the stats about Marines’ motorcycle accidents should not be so surprising. When the war in Iraq was at its height, car safety advocates were pointing out that the number of lives claimed by our nation’s roads annually – approximately 42,000 – dwarves the number of lives lost in Iraq. The only surprising thing is that even among a cohort like the Marines, who face so many dangers, motorcycle accidents are a serious risk.
Sadly, the lives lost in auto and motorcycle accidents are often easily preventable deaths. So buckle up and keep an eye out for the Marine, or other motorcyclist, who might be in traffic with you.

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Massachusetts Women Should Be Aware Of The Risks of Yaz

According to this news article, fifty Indiana women have sued Bayer, the maker of the Yasmin (or “Yaz”) birth control pill, because their use of the pill caused serious health problems, such as stroke and heart attacks.
Yasmin or “Yaz,” has been sold since 2001. It contains a hormone known as drospirenone that can lead to high levels of blood potassium. High levels of potassium can, in turn, lead to a condition known as hyperkalemia, which can be responsible for heart attacks, blood clots and circulatory problems.
In the past few months, dozens of lawsuits have been filed against Bayer, claiming that Yaz is unsafe. The Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning letter concerning Yaz, however Bayer has not recalled the product.
To date, no Yaz lawsuits have been filed in Massachusetts. We will update you if Massachusetts women do become part of this litigation.

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Link Of The Day: Medical Malpractice “Reform”

Joanne Doroshow of the Center For Justice and Democracy has this fabulous blog post today over at The Huffington Post.
Doroshow makes two good points. First, medical malpractice reform in Texas has been an abysmal failure – as it has been elsewhere.
Second, there are almost no frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits. A medical malpractice lawyer has to advance significant out-of-pocket costs to prosecute any medical malpractice case. In every medical malpractice case, he will have to pay for filing fees, depositions and, most costly of all, expert witness fees – the experts being, of course, doctors who command very high fees for their time. These costs run into the tens of thousands of dollars and, with an aggressive insurance defense bar out there, no lawyer in his right mind files frivolous cases.
I don’t think there is even a public perception that plaintiff’s lawyers file frivolous med mal lawsuits. Instead, I think there is a public perception that juries sometimes give outlandish rewards to the victims of medical malpractice and that must be stopped. Well, there are legal mechanisms in place, ones that have always been there and that are used quite frequently, that allow judges to throw out verdicts that are not in line with the actual harm suffered.
Instead of limiting the rights of victims of medical malpractice, health care reformers should focus on the truly large costs of health care: the costs associated with obesity and diabetes. If we could find better treatments for these diseases, the cost of health care could be cut by a third to one-half. And we wouldn’t be turning medical malpractice victims in victims twice: first in the operating room and then in the courtroom.

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Toyota Acceleration Problem Poses Dangers For Massachusetts Drivers

Earlier this week, a third wrongful death lawsuit was filed against Toyota relating to acceleration problems that have caused Toyota vehicles to accelerate suddenly and uncontrollably.
This third lawsuit was filed by lawyers for Trina Renee Harris, a 34-year old mother of two, who was killed when her 2009 Toyota Corolla slammed into a cement divider on a toll road. There were no skid marks or other evidence of an attempt to brake.
Harris’ apparent inability to stop the car is consistent with reports of other recent Toyota crashes. In August, an off-duty California state trooper and three of his family were killed after the Lexus they were driving accelerated to 120 m.p.h. In a telephone call to 911 that the family made while trapped in the speeding Lexus, the family explained to 911 dispatch that the car was accelerating without their being able to control it.
Another Toyota driver, Bulent Ezal, had his Camry suddenly accelerate in a restaurant parking lot and plunge 70 feet off a cliff, landing in the ocean. Ezal’s wife was killed in this accident.
Thankfully, not all of the accidents have been fatal. One driver, Joseph Hauter, survived a crash that occurred when his 2008 Toyota Camry suddenly accelerated at a gas station. Investigators are looking into several other non-fatal accidents in multiple states.
Thus far, there have not been any reports of Massachusetts Toyota drivers being involved in sudden acceleration crashes. However, Massachusetts drivers need to take precautions because Toyota cars seem especially prone to this problem. As the Consumerist blog reports, 41 percent of sudden acceleration complaints that were made in 2008 were for Toyota and Lexus models.
Lawyers for the car accident victims in these cases believe that the problem lies in an electronic throttle system that was installed in many Toyota models. The electronic throttle system does not have any mechanical link between the accelerator pedal and the engine. In addition, there is no override system for the electronic throttle, so that pressing the brake when the throttle is stuck will not cause the accelerator to shut off.
Toyota has instituted a nationwide recall to attempt to address the problem. The vehicles affected by the recall include:

  • 2009-2010 RAV4
  • 2009-2010 Corolla
  • 2007-2010 Camry
  • 2009-2010 Matrix
  • 2005-2010 Avalon
  • 2010 Highlander
  • 2007-2010 Tundra
  • 2008-2010 Sequoia

Lexus models were not included in this recall, although, as noted above, Lexuses have been the subject of complaints and at least one wrongful death suit. If you own a Toyota model listed in the recall, or one not listed that you are concerned about, you can call Toyota’s customer service department at 1-800-331-4331.

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Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Poised To Change Rule In Slip-And-Fall Cases: Part I

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is poised to reconsider a longstanding rule in premises liability cases – the so-called “natural accumulation rule” – leading some defense lawyers to fear that the SJC’s decision could pave the way for a tidal wave of new premises liability lawsuits.
Under the “natural accumulation rule,” which has been a part of Massachusetts law for more than a century, property owners are not liable if someone slips on a “natural accumulation” of snow or ice that is on their property. So, to oversimplify a bit, if someone slips on virgin snowfall or naturally occurring ice, the property owner will not be held liable. But if the snow or ice is altered from its natural state – for example, by water flowing from a gutter pipe – the property owner may be held liable.
The natural accumulation rule has led to a raft of precedents that are difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile with one another. After years of complaints about the inconsistent application of the rule and the lack of any underlying public policy rationale, the Supreme Judicial Court recently agreed to hear arguments in the case of Papadopoulos v. Target Corporation and to consider the question of “whether, in a premises liability action involving snow and ice, the distinction between natural and unnatural accumulations of snow and ice should continue to be a factor under Massachusetts law.”
In the Papadopoulos case, Mr. Papadopoulos slipped in the parking lot of a Target department store that had recently been snowplowed, resulting in a hip injury that required surgery. However, a trial court judge threw out his case, ruling that the ice he slipped on was “natural accumulation.”
Hopefully, the Supreme Judicial Court will abolish the natural accumulation rule. The rule gives property owners and commercial tenants no incentive to properly shovel, plow and sand their property. It is an outlier in Massachusetts law because landlords are responsible for keeping their property in safe condition in virtually all other areas. As Mr. Papadopoulos’ lawyer argues, Target has a duty to “repair defective walkways, fix the cracks in their parking lot [and] clean up spills in their stores.” There should be a corresponding duty to keep their property free of snow and ice.
Check back here for updates on the Papadopoulos case. There will be a post about the case’s outcome and posts about new rules the Supreme Judicial Court might consider.

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First Denture Cream Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed

A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed in Florida, alleging that a sixty-four year old man died from zinc poisoning resulting from his use, over fourteen years, of the denture cream Poligrip. This is widely believed to be the first such wrongful death lawsuit filed in the United States, although scientific research about the hazards of denture cream has been accumulating for several years and other lawsuits have been filed that have alleged non-fatal instances of zinc poisoning from denture creams.
In 2008, the scientific journal Neurology published a case study of four people suffering from zinc poisoning that was traced to their use of denture creams that contained zinc. Since that time, several lawsuits have been filed on behalf of denture cream users who suffered neuropathy (pain in their extremities) and other neurological disorders caused by zinc overdose.
The wrongful death lawsuit that has just been filed alleges that, over a fourteen month period, the denture user’s zinc poisoning caused a decline in health that led to paralysis and, ultimately, death. We will keep you updated on future developments in denture cream litigation and the underlying scientific research.

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