- In job bias dispute: “Federal Court Says Veganism Might Qualify As A Religion” [Religion Clause]
- Perennially credulous L.A. Times drops broad hints that Toyota settlement vindicates sudden acceleration theories, others know better [LA Times, NLJ earlier]
- “Cato Named America’s Most Effective Think Tank Per Dollar Spent” [Dan Mitchell, Nick Rosenkranz]
- Disappointing: Transportation Sec. LaHood said to be “sticking around for a while” [Roads and Bridges, earlier] That was quick: only hours later, he says he’s leaving after all [WaPo]
- It became necessary to destroy the sex workers in order to save them [Melissa Gira Grant/Reason]
- Profile of lefter-than-thou NY attorney general Eric Schneiderman [NY Mag]
- As rural pub tradition declines, Irish government rejects proposal to ease DUI laws [AP]
We now know that the panicky tales of electronics-driven sudden acceleration in Toyotas, as urged on the nation by trial lawyer allies like Clarence Ditlow and Joan Claybrook, were sheerest fantasy. That’s no real surprise, since earlier reports of mechanically arising sudden acceleration in Audis and other brands of automobile (also urged on the nation by Ditlow et al.) proved equally imaginary.
But the media never learns, and if they don’t, why should the government? So the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is proposing a rule that would require all auto designs to include “override” systems which shut off the accelerator if the brake is pressed. This will have no effect at all on typical “sudden acceleration” accidents, which arise from drivers’ hitting the wrong pedal, since those drivers already imagine themselves to be hitting the brake. They will have little if any effect on the extremely rare floor mat entrapment cases in which an accelerator gets trapped in the depressed position, because drivers can already overcome such acceleration by pressing the brake pedal if it is available, while if it is not available because of mats or other obstructions, the efficacy of the override may fall short of what is hoped.
But at least the government will be able to say that it did something.
I did find it interesting in the Washington Post account that Ditlow seems for the moment to have joined the rest of us in agreeing that pedal misapplication is the big cause of these accidents, the better to afford him a vantage point to criticize NHTSA for Not Doing Enough on that front. That’s quite a change from what you hear from him at the height of these panics, when he tends to talk up every possible cause of unwanted acceleration other than driver error. When the next sudden-acceleration panic breaks out, I fully expect CAS to be back pitching the electronics theories again.
P.S. Plaintiff’s lawyer and longtime Overlawyered favorite Steve Berman asserts that there have been “thousands of crashes, hundreds of deaths,” a claim the National Law Journal’s Amanda Bronstad relays without skeptical comment.
- Trial lawyer TV: mistranslation, plaintiff’s experts were instrumental in “Anderson Cooper 360” CNN story trying to keep sudden-acceleration theory alive [Corp Counsel, Toyota, PDF, background]
- “Can I get a form to file a police complaint?” No. No, you can’t [Balko]
- Madison County lawyer runs for judgeship [MCRecord; earlier on her columnist-suing past]
- RIP Dan Popeo, founder and head of Washington Legal Foundation [Mark Tapscott, Examiner]
- Louisiana: “Church Ordered to Stop Giving Away Free Water” [Todd Starnes, Fox via Amy Alkon]
- Developer of “Joustin’ Beaver” game files for declaratory judgment against singer Justin Bieber’s trademark, publicity claims [THR, Esq.]
- “Why are Indian reservations so poor?” [John Koppisch, Forbes] “Payday loans head to the Indian reservations” [Katherine Mangu-Ward, Reason] Tribal recognition: high-stakes D.C. game where lobbyists get the house rake-off [Chris Edwards, Cato]
John Cook at Gawker wants to know how a coveted Edward R. Murrow prize could just have been bestowed on the Toyota-panic reporting of ABC’s Brian Ross (“America’s Wrongest Reporter”), given that it showcased staged, fakey footage, relied heavily on the assertions of a safety consultant whose plaintiff’s-side involvement in the controversy went unmentioned, and omitted details that would have raised readers’ doubts on key themes, among many other sins. Later investigations, of course, decisively refuted the lawyer-stoked fears that Toyotas have some mysterious tendency to accelerate out of control. More: Ted Frank and Hans Bader, and my take on the sad history of media irresponsibility on car-safety scares.
- Reforms billed as loser-pays advance in Texas, but they’re very scaled-down [WSJ, WLF and more, Legal Blog Watch, Wood/PoL, Cary Gray/Houston Chronicle, WSJ Law Blog, earlier]
- “Refutation of Toyota sudden acceleration hysteria doesn’t stop Toyota sudden acceleration litigation” [Ted at PoL]
- “Five Questions With Legal Scholar Richard Epstein” [Jamie Weinstein, Daily Caller; his views on Title IX]
- Employers glad for small favors: “Refusing to Hire Applicant Who Fails Drug Test Not an ADA Violation” [Robin Weideman, California Labor and Employment Law Blog; Ninth Circuit]
- “Study Shows Litigation Doesn’t Improve Nursing Home Safety” [Studdert et al, NEJM via Daniel Fisher]
- Risperdal? No thanks: “Mother battles Michigan over daughter’s medication” [AP]
- Personal-injury litigation plummets in Australia following enactment of state-level reforms [seven years ago on Overlawyered]
- Lack of defect poses problem for plaintiff: Toyota prevails in first acceleration case [NLJ]
- Australia: writer Andrew Bolt on trial for alleged racially disparaging columns [Herald Sun, Crikey, The Age]
- “Attorneys Put Themselves Before Consumers in Class Action over Faulty Computer Chip” [CJAC, Frank/CCAF on NVidia case]
- Ruling by Federal Circuit is thinning out rush of patent marking cases [Qualters, NLJ, earlier]
- Podcast: Lester Brickman and “Lawyer Barons” [PoL, earlier here and here]
- “Are class actions unconstitutional?” [Lahav, Mass Tort Lit, on Martin Redish book]
- “Free speech belongs on campuses too” [Ilya Shapiro, Cato, on Widener case, with kind mention of Schools for Misrule]
- King Canute turns attention to dry land: states mull bills to forbid use of distressed properties as appraisal comps [Funnell]
More: Jalopnik, Coyote, Marc Hodak, Rick Woldenberg/AmendTheCPSIA, Dan Fisher/Forbes, Dan Bigman/Forbes (LaHood: “no defect, but we’ll regulate the industry anyway”); Carter Wood/ShopFloor and more, Ted Frank/PoL (class action over loss of resale value continues), New York Times, Leonard Evans/AOL. My March 2010 National Review piece “Exorcising Toyota’s Demons” is here. And welcome readers from Instapundit, Charlie Martin/PJ Tatler, Pejman Yousefzadeh, Roger Donway/Atlas Society, Ira Stoll/Future of Capitalism.
Unable to show any electronic flaw in the vehicles, plaintiff’s lawyers switch to the theory that the automaker should have embraced “brake override” technology that disengages the throttle when the brake is applied. That technology doesn’t work, of course, if the driver is in fact mistakenly hitting the accelerator when intending to hit the brake — which was what happened in earlier sudden-acceleration scares, and looks likely to be the cause of most of the Toyota incidents as well. [L.A. Times]
Product liability edition:
- You mean cigarettes were dangerous? “Florida jury awards $80M to daughter in anti-smoking case” [AP]
- “Acne drug not found to increase suicide risk” [BBC, earlier on Accutane here, here, etc.]
- “Man hit by jar of exploding fruit says $150,000 award isn’t enough” [Detroit News via Obscure Store]
- Chicago accident coverage exemplifies Toyota acceleration hysteria [Fumento/CEI] NHTSA-NRC panel findings on subject [PoL]
- Strict product liability is in decline, according to Prof. David Owen [Abnormal Use]
- More questions raised on $500 million Nevada hepatitis verdict [PoL]
- Notwithstanding chatter in press about toxic cosmetics, study finds cosmetologists have below-average cancer rates [David Oliver]
- Florida juries repeatedly hold Ford liable for millions when drivers fall asleep [five years ago on Overlawyered]