Thursday, August 21, 2014

Motorcycle accident

The other day in class I discussed a hypo based on a motorcycle accident.  Coincidentally, yesterday I saw this video of an actual accident (at about the 20 second mark).  In my hypo, the victim lost a leg.  In this video, well, watch for yourself.  The rider shows incredible balance and agility!  I wonder if he is a gymnast or a surfer...  One thing I know he is is extremely lucky!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Court reopens case against GM even though plaintiffs had agreed to settlement

Last July I reported on an attempt to re open a case against GM based on an allegation that the plaintiffs would not have settled had they known that the GM witness lied during discovery and that the company covered it up.  As I said back then, Courts are usually reluctant to reopen lawsuits once they are settled but in this case the available documents helped the plaintiff's argument.  And last week, the court did authorize reopening the case.  Go to for more details.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Movies with pivotal lessons for lawyers

As many of you know, I keep a list of recommended movies for lawyers and law students.  It does not includes all the law related movies out there; only ones I have seen and would recommend.   Now for those of you interested in movies, here is a link to an article in the ABA listing twelve movie scenes that offer important lessons for lawyers.  You can click on each movie title for a short description of the relevant scene and the lesson the authors think it helps teach.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Lawsuit filed against GM claims for 29 deaths and hundreds of injuries is reporting here that General Motors faces a new lawsuit filed on behalf of the families of 29 people who died in accidents allegedly caused by ignition switch defects, as well as 629 people who allege they suffered serious personal injury when the airbags in certain vehicles failed to open in a crash. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on July 29, seeking damages on behalf of individuals who are not eligible for a GM victim’s compensation fund, which begins taking applications today.  Go here for the full story.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Will you vote for this blog?

The voting for the ABA top 100 legal blogs is now open.  If you like this blog, I would appreciate your vote! To vote go to this link and fill our the form.

Monday, July 21, 2014

NY Times article with details on the GM compensation fund

As you know by now, GM has announced a limited compensation fund for some of the victims of injuries caused by their defective cars.  I commented on it briefly here.  For more information, here is an article from the New York Times with a few more details.

Illinois Appellate Court reaffirms that there should be no cause of action by (or on behalf of) child against mother for injuries caused by mother during pregnancy

In 1988, the Illinois Supreme Court refused to recognize a cause of action by a child born with injuries caused by the negligence of the child's mother while she was pregnant.  See Stallman v. Youngquist, 125 Ill. 2d 267 (1988).  The court declined to recognize a legal duty on the part of a pregnant woman because the recognition of such a legal duty would create an environment wherein "[m]other and child would be legal adversaries from the moment of conception until birth."  It also reasoned that recognizing such a claim would allow the state to unduly interfere with a woman's right to autonomy during the pregnancy.
In a decision issued about three weeks ago, the Illinois Appellate Court reaffirmed this reasoning in a case that involved a pregnant woman who allegedly negligently caused the death of her own fetus.  Even though, by statute, Illinois recognizes the right of the next of kin to claim for the wrongful death of a fetus, the court found that this right could not be claimed against the mother.  The case is called National Railroad Passenger Corporation v. Terracon Consultants, and (for now) you can find a copy of the decision here.

In this case a pregnant woman was involved in an accident with a train.  As a result she died, which also resulted in the death of her fetus.  After settling claims for the wrongful death of the mother and fetus, one of the defendants sued the mother's estate in contribution claiming the mother's negligence was a cause of the fetus' death.  The plaintiffs then tried to distinguish Stallman by arguing that Stallman was not a contribution claim.  In response, the court correctly affirmed the lower court's dismissal of the complaint based on the principles expressed in Stallman, staing that 
We are not persuaded by the plaintiffs' argument that the public policy considerations discussed in Stallman−which . . .  involved a fetus subsequently born alive−do not apply equally when the fetus does not survive. As the defendants point out, declining to recognize the applicability of the Stallman holding to situations where a fetus does not survive the injuries allegedly inflicted unintentionally by the mother of the fetus would create the paradoxical and potentially unjust situation wherein a fetus that did not survive its injuries could bring a claim against its mother, but a fetus that did survive its injuries could not. We agree with the defendants that duty should not hinge on the nature and extent of the injury involved. The Stallman court declined to recognize a legal duty on the part of a pregnant woman, during her pregnancy, to "guarantee the mental and physical health of another" at birth, because the recognition of such a legal duty would create an environment wherein "[m]other and child would be legal adversaries from the moment of conception until birth." Stallman v. Youngquist, 125 Ill. 2d 267, 276 (1988).  
In accordance with this reasoning, and the other thoughtful and compelling public policy reasoning put forward by the Stallman court ..., we believe the court likewise would have rejected the idea that a pregnant woman has a legal duty, during her pregnancy, to guarantee that her fetus will survive to birth, as that too would create an environment where mother and child were legal adversaries during the pregnancy. Accordingly, although we recognize that the Wrongful Death Act (740 ILCS 180/0.01 et seq. (West 2008)) itself does not specifically prevent an unborn fetus from asserting a claim against an allegedly negligent mother, we hold that the recognition of a cause of action for wrongful death asserted by an unborn fetus against the mother of the fetus would be incongruent with the reasoning underlying the Stallman holding that there is no duty on the part of a mother to her unborn fetus. Therefore, we decline to recognize such a duty and such a cause of action.
I think the court here reached the correct result.  It can certainly be argued that pregnant women have a moral duty to exercise reasonable care to prevent injuries during pregnancy, but the question is whether that moral duty should be a legal duty, a violation of which can be vindicated through tort law.  I happen to think Illinois has reached the correct decision on this issue, for the reasons explained in Stallman and in Remy v. Mcdonald, 801 NE2d 260 (Mass 2004).

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Record number of car recalls now includes my own!

Just six months into 2014, auto makers have already smashed the record for the most cars recalled in any one year, with 37.5 million vehicles recalled due to defects or safety concerns.  For more on that story go here.

And now that includes my own car!!

I guess this falls in the category of thinking "it can't happen to me...", right?  Well, it did.  I recently got a letter from my car's manufacturer telling me of a problem with the car and letting me know what to do about it.  They will gladly take care of it... and free of charge to boot!

Interestingly, my car is not manufactured by any of the companies that have been in the news because of recalls recently.  So this was a bit of a surprise.  Also interestingly, although not surprisingly, the letter does not mention the word recall in any way.