Archive for April, 2010

Report Traces the Role of American Civil Justice System in Improving Auto Safety

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

The American Association for Justice (AAJ) has released a report that traces the history of auto safety improvements in the United States spurred by the civil justice system.  The springboard for the April, 2010 report is the recent accelerator defects in many Toyota models.  However, the report focuses on the accomplishments of our jury system in bringing about positive change in everything in our cars from gas tanks to tires and air bag safety.

Through historical examples, the report gives us a sense for how far the auto industry has come and where we would be without seriously injured people having access to justice.  For example, the report’s introduction takes us back to 1964, when Chevrolet built a sold steering shaft 3 inches from the front tires of its Corvair model, which caused the shaft to ram violently into a driver’s head when he was struck head-on by another vehicle.   General Motors was wise to redesign its steering mechanism after evidence of such a preventable injury became public in a court of law.  Ultimately, the AAJ report concludes with a diagram theorizing what today’s auto would look like if the American civil justice system didn’t exist.

View full report here:

Toyota Will Pay Government Fine, but Individuals are Forced to Litigate for Justice

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Toyota Motor Corp. and the U.S. Government have agreed that Toyota will pay a $16.4 million fine related to not disclosing defects in accelerator pedals.  According to the Associated Press, the fine amounts to “a little more than $2 for every vehicle the company sold around the globe in 2009.”  However, the money is not designated as compensation for personal injuries caused by defective accelerators.  So far, Toyota has indicated it will not accept responsibility for its share of damages due to injuries caused by the accelerator defects.  In order for individuals harmed by Toyota’s disregard for consumer safety to recover for their losses, individuals must continue to seek justice through the civil litigation process.

SEC Files Civil Fraud Charges Against Goldman Sachs

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

On Monday, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed civil fraud charges against Goldman Sachs, alleging it marketed securities to customers knowing they would fail.  Goldman Sachs is one of the nation’s largest banks.  The SEC has jurisdiction to regulate banks and file civil complaints seeking money damages when it believes a fraud has occurred.  Goldman Sachs has publicly stated it will vigorously defend the charges.  The bigger public policy battle underway is to what extent private banks should be held responsible–and ultimately regulated more strictly–for the financial crisis.  For a comprehensive article regarding the case, see

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stevens Will Leave a Legacy of Jury Trial Protection When He Retires This Summer

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

As of tomorrow it will be one week since Justice John Paul Stevens officially announced his retirement from the United States Supreme Court effective at the close of the current term this summer.  The announcement was not a surprise given the long and successful career of Justice Stevens.  He turns 90 in five days.  Supreme Court historians will debate Justice Stevens’ legacy for years to come.  Writers and pundits have already started to evaluate his legacy.  (To learn more about a handful of landmark cases in which Justice Stevens played a pivotal role, you can read a Newsweek blog at:  Overall, Justice Stevens is likely to be remembered for his reasoned approach to civil liberties, civil rights, and the right to trial by jury in both criminal and civil cases.  Given Justice Stevens cared deeply about applying the wisdom of the constitution’s founders to the issues of modern times, it is appropriate to invoke the words of John Adams in 1774, who said, “Representative government and trial by jury are the heart and lungs of liberty.”

Ben Roethlisberger Could Face Another Personal Injury Lawsuit Under Civil Burden of Proof

Monday, April 12th, 2010

At approximately 2:00 p.m. local time, people in Pittsburgh, PA and around the country took a break from their day to learn that Ben Roethlisberger would not be criminally prosecuted for the alleged sexual assault of a college student in Georgia.  The District Attorney who made the decision not to prosecute was clear he could not prove the case against Roethlisberger, “beyond a reasonable doubt”.  That standard of proof is used universally throughout the United States as the benchmark of guilt–if someone is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt”, then they are legally guilty of a crime.  If a prosecutor can’t prove that a crime occurred “beyond a reasonable doubt”, then it would be unethical and unconstitutional to go forward with the prosecution.  Nonetheless, the facts in a case, including in Roethlisberger’s situation, may be enough to prove that he broke the law “more probably than not”.  That is the burden of proof for a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit for personal injury or sexual assault and battery.   Thus, if the alleged victim chooses to file suit, she and her attorney must do so with a good faith belief they can prove an injury, assault, or battery was committed on a, “more probable than not basis”.  In time, we will learn if the Georgia incident will result in a civil lawsuit against Roethlisberger just as the Nevada incident gave rise to a sexual assault lawsuit without criminal prosecution.  While there are many reasons why there may be a civil case but no criminal case, the different burden of proof fundamentally explains why this duality can legally occur in our justice system.

Cal/OSHA Issues Large Fine

Monday, April 5th, 2010

In the “L.A. Now” blog at the Los Angeles Times (4/1), Jessica Garrison wrote, “The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health on Thursday fined Bimbo Bakeries $230,000, including more than $120,000 in rarely issued ‘willful’ citations given to companies that intentionally disregard safety regulations. The action comes after a Times investigation last fall highlighted cases at Bimbo Bakeries in which five employees lost fingers or parts of fingers, and one lost an arm, in separate bakery accidents.” The action “comes as Cal/OSHA and the appeals board that reviews the citations it issues are under pressure from lawmakers and federal officials,” on issue being that the board “has repeatedly reduced fines or dismissed cases over the objections of Cal/OSHA investigators.”