The Fraternity Mindset: Why Be Responsible When You Can Dodge Responsibility?

Caitlin Flanagan’s “The Dark Power of Fraternities” at The Atlantic, an exposé of the “endemic, lurid, and sometimes tragic problems” that plague fraternities and how they avoid liability, is a fascinating and essential read. It’s one of the most thorough reports in recent memory of how powerful, wealthy interests insulate themselves from accountability for the harm they cause to individuals.   Before we get to the substance, the manner of Flanagan’s reporting deserves special mention. Rarely do press reports about the civil justice system give it this type of realistic, balanced treatment. Most reports treat the civil justice system as ... Continue Reading

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The Red Bull Wrongful Death Lawsuit Might Have Wings

[Update: A month after I posted the below article, researchers at the Radiological Society of North America's annual meeting presented a cardiac MRI study showing that consumption of energy drinks "increased peak strain and peak systolic strain rates in the heart's left ventricle," which could potentially trigger arrhythmias.]   Few headlines are as cringeworthy to upstanding trial lawyers as those which include a phrase like “$85 million lawsuit alleges,” and earlier this week the New York Daily News reported “Brooklyn man killed by drinking Red Bull, $85 million lawsuit alleges.”   As Eric Turkewitz aptly explains about the “$85 million ... Continue Reading

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Is The NCAA Legally Responsible For Player Injuries And Deaths?

  The NCAA is a magnet for litigation these days; if they’re not being hounded with dubious claims by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, they’re being challenged for a variety of meritorious antitrust claims, like on their rules limiting athletic scholarships and their licensing agreements for videogames. The cases raise substantial issues about the extent to which an organization can wholly dominate — and profit from — the field of college athletics free from legal accountability.   The Jack Hill, Jr., lawsuit filed last week in Pennsylvania state court, however, raises an issue of far greater importance: whether the NCAA has ... Continue Reading

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Can Match.com Be Sued For Setting A Woman Up With A Murderer?

Read more about our sexual assault lawyers. On Friday, it was reported that a Nevada woman has sued Match.com for “failing to disclose dangers of online dating.”   Mary Kay Beckman’s experience was certainly traumatic: she alleges she met Wade Ridley through the site and dated him for a mere eight days. After a couple of harassing text messages, he disappeared for four months then surprised her in her garage, stabbing her repeatedly, stomping on her, and leaving her for dead. She has since had three brain surgeries, as well as “extensive psychological counseling, dental care to repair her jaw, ... Continue Reading

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Fungal Meningitis In Steroid Shots And The Power of Incentives

The human body is both a marvel of engineering capable of jamming decades of memories and the programming to run a 100 trillion cell body into a brain the size of a football, and a slipshod jury rig. Ever since Hippocrates (“the father of spine surgery”) prescribed the first treatments for back problems — various combinations of baths, massages, and hanging upside down, all in all not too different from today — humanity has been dealing with chronic back pain. Even apart from classic deformities like kyphosis and scoliosis or a traumatic injury, the human back is just plain prone ... Continue Reading

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Why Does The First Aurora Shooting Lawsuit Look So Dubious?

Back when news broke of James Holmes’ shooting at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado on July, I briefly considered writing about it.  As hard as it is to write about a tragedy on a personal level, I genuinely find the law interesting; unpacking the liability after an air show disaster or a sexual predator run amuck at a university is, to me, both challenging and rewarding.  I was quite busy last week, though, and frankly my heart was not in it, because the news quickly got the civil liability story correct, leaving not much ... Continue Reading

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The Purpose of Strict Liability In Pennsylvania

Do you think it’s fair to ask riding lawnmower manufacturers to pay for the medical care of children injured in riding lawnmower accidents? How about asking meat blender suppliers to compensate people injured by commercial blenders? Neither of these events happen all that often, and the cost would be passed on to consumers, making the question: would you mind paying a little bit more for your lawnmower to set up a fund for children who lost part of their leg, sometimes much more, after being run over by riding lawnmower? How about a little bit more for your hamburger in ... Continue Reading

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Overzealous Advocacy, From Dog Bites To Botox

No lawyer walks in the office in the morning and thinks, today I’m going to cross the line, but it happens. Consider these three recent examples discussed by John Day, Eric Turkewitz, and James Beck. (1) John Day, a plaintiff’s lawyer in Tennessee, has some insight into the recent $900,000 herpes infection verdict in Oregon: The defense lawyer said the following in the presence of the jury: "Grow up. Come on. You're an adult. He's an adult. They had sex. ... The point is she is not some little innocent victim. … Go for a million -- that's plaintiff's message. ... Continue Reading

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Betz v. Pneumo Abex: Not Every Asbestos Exposure Is “Substantial”

Last week the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided Betz v. Pneumo Abex et al. (opinion here), a 'friction products' — i.e., brake pads — asbestos exposure case, ruling against the plaintiff. I had previously discussed the case briefly here. Drug and Device Law has already covered the opinion, as has Nathan A. Schachtman, and I (naturally) disagree with much of what they conclude. A month ago I wrote about the difference between scientific evidence and the scientific method, and the Betz case is a great example of many of the issues — some legal, some political — that arise when science is brought into a civil case. ... Continue Reading

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One-Sided Arbitration: How To Tell If A Company Expects To Hurt Or Cheat You

Every day, billions of dollars changes hands based on the myth that people actually read, and agree to, every word in every contract they've ever signed. Ever read your cell phone contract? Your cable contract? Judge Posner famously admitted that he didn't read the contract that came with his home equity loan. Truth is, who has the time or energy to scrutinize every line? And what power do you have to negotiate it? Try negotiating your cell phone contract some time. See if you can even find a person at the company with the authority to negotiate. Decades ago, thoughtful ... Continue Reading

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