Saturday, March 27, 2021

Texas to decide whether Amazon can be held liable in products liability claim caused by product sold by a third party on its website

Back in August of last year, I reported that an appellate court in California found that could be sued for products liability for the value of injuries caused by defective goods sold on its website by third-party vendors.  See here.

Today I am writing to let you know that the same issue is now before the Texas Supreme Court.  Courthouse News Service is reporting that the issue is before the court in a case centered around a remote control battery swallowed by a 19-month-old child.  Go here for more information.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Podcast on qualified immunity

 A few minutes ago, I reported that New York City has abolished qualified immunity.  Meanwhile, below you will find a podcast in which Prof. Alexander Reinert (Cardozo School of Law) discusses an empirical assessment and comprehensive study on the actual way that courts of appeals have handled qualified immunity cases.  You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the play button below or by going to the podcast website here.

New York City Council abolishes qualified immunity

Yesterday, the New York City Council passed legislation that will effectively end qualified immunity for police officers; thus removing one of the largest impediments to holding officers personally liable for violating citizens’ civil rights, several local news outlets reported.  In doing so, New York became the first city in the country to abolish the defense.  Law & Crime has more information here.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Courts find that police officers do not have immunity in two recent cases

As you probably know, police officers often escape possible tort liability because they claim to have qualified immunity.  According to the doctrine of qualified immunity, officials performing discretionary functions have immunity as long as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights or which a reasonable person would have known.

The use of qualified immunity in cases involving alleged police misconduct has been increasingly criticized of late, and two courts recently decided that the officers involved did not have immunity for their actions.

In one case, the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit unanimously ruled that an Alabama police officer is not entitled to immunity for an incident in which he repeatedly deployed a Taser on an innocent teenager who was having seizures at a concert.  You can read about that case here.

In the other case, the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit held that the defendant did not have immunity in a case in which the plaintiff alleged that the officer punched a suspect in the face, whipped him with a chain, and released a police dog on him.  Evidently, the Court felt that a reasonable officer should know that that type of conduct violates someone's rights.  You can read about that case here.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Today in Supreme Court History: Benjamin Cardozo is sworn in as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court

You probably remember Benjamin Cardozo as the New York Court of Appeals judge who wrote Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad, which developed what has become the standard analysis for proximate cause in Tort law.  But in 1932, President Herbert Hoover appointed Cardozo to the Supreme Court of the United States to succeed Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes.  Interestingly, Hoover, a Republican, appointed Cardozo even though he was a Democrat. I would be curious to know how many times that has happened since.

According to an article in The New York Times about Cardozo's appointment, "seldom, if ever, in the history of the Court has an appointment been so universally commended."

Cardozo was confirmed by a unanimous voice vote in the Senate on February 24 and was sworn in on March 14, 1932.

To celebrate, why not do some reading?  Here is a link to my article Ahead of his time: Cardozo and the Current Debates on Professional Responsibility, 34 Touro Law Review 101 (2018).

Sunday, March 7, 2021

New York expands category of people who can recover for emotional distress from witnessing someone else's accident

As you probably know, in most jurisdictions a plaintiff has a cause of action for emotional distress based on having witnessed someone else suffer an injury even if the plaintiff is outside the zone of danger (within which the plaintiff would be in danger of physical injury) if certain conditions are met. 

New York, however, is not one of those jurisdictions.  Instead, New York still follows the minority approach.  Thus, in NY, plaintiffs seeking to recover for emotional distress from witnessing someone else’s accident must show that they (the plaintiffs) were within the zone of danger and in danger of physical injury at the time of the accident and that the person who suffered the injury must have been an “immediate family member.”

I am writing about this today because about two weeks ago, the New York Court of Appeals (the highest court in the state) expanded the category of people who can recover by recognizing that grandparents are “immediate family members.”  

It should be clear that the opinion did NOT extend the reach of possible liability to people outside the zone of danger, but it did expand the category of people who can recover if they are within the zone of danger.

The case is called Greene v. Esplanade Venture Partnership.  You can read the opinion here.  Courthouse News and the ABA Journal have more information about the case here and here respectively.