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.
Ed Wallace at Bloomberg Business Week tells why the Toyota sudden-acceleration debacle merely replays a long and sad history:
I don’t mean to single out CBS for criticism. Plenty of other media outlets share the blame. For 30 years they have treated us to Jeep, Suzuki, and Isuzu Trooper rollovers, Audi unintended acceleration, side-saddle gas tanks exploding, police cars catching on fire, Firestone tires blowing out, and then the Toyota case. And each time the media took the word of those with a vested financial interest in the outcome—and every time they got burned for doing so.
- HUD “defers to Constitutional considerations” and dismisses complaint against woman who’d posted note at church seeking Christian roommate [Fox News, earlier; Oct. 28 statement from Michigan Department of Civil Rights]
- Judge denies class action status in Pelman obesity suit against McDonald’s [Bloomberg, earlier]
- “Campers mauled by bear at Lake Louise lose lawsuit against Parks Canada” [Calgary Herald]
- Supreme Court hears oral argument in Schwarzenegger violent-videogame case [Ilya Shapiro, Cato at Liberty]
- Oh, that liberal media: “Consumers’ right to file class actions is in danger” [David Lazarus, L.A. Times, on AT&T v. Concepcion arbitration case]
- NLRB files first complaint challenging employer’s social networking policy [Schwartz, Hyman]
- Publisher’s threats against 800Notes.com gripe site bolster case for libel-tourism law [Paul Alan Levy, CL&P; earlier on Julia Forte case]
- Nevada Supreme Court finds homeowner not liable for motorist’s crash into garden wall [seven years ago on Overlawyered]
I appeared in this Washington Legal Foundation web video yesterday. I discussed ways in which the rise of online media has helped correct some of the deficiencies of the older media in covering controversies like that over “unintended acceleration”. The other presentation on the video is by Andrew Trask of McGuire Woods and the Class Action Countermeasures blog. Viewing is free but you’ll need to register.
Not for the first (or fifty-first) time, the California paper acts as an uncritical stenographer of Litigation Lobby claims — then waits until paragraph 13 to advise readers that NHTSA, not exactly the friendliest witness these days, backs the automaker’s position on the question of the “black box” data. More: AP.
WSJ (h/t C.W.):
The U.S. Department of Transportation has analyzed dozens of data recorders from Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles involved in accidents blamed on sudden acceleration and found that at the time of the crashes, throttles were wide open and the brakes were not engaged, people familiar with the findings said.
In other words, driver error, except in the one-in-a-million instances when a gas pedal was trapped by a poorly-installed floor mat. Will plaintiffs’ lawyers who have been conspiracy-theorizing about a non-existent electronic defect withdraw their class actions and product-liability suits, much less apologize? How about AP and the news media? Don’t count on it. Earlier from me and from Walter.
Is the Japanese company super-extra-resistant to discovery demands, or is it just behaving the way other automakers would, backed up by a Japanese legal environment that is less oriented than ours toward compulsory disclosure-on-demand managed by hostile lawyers? Michael Fumento: “it’s clear from the article that the ‘experts’ upon whom the journalists relied aren’t just lawyers, aren’t just trial lawyers, but are trial lawyers suing Toyota.”
As its press release says, Take Two Software settled a securities class action, yet multiple sources–including Dave Itzkoff’s story in the New York Times and Bloomberg–incorrectly report that it settled the consumer class action, complete with incorrect docket number. The consumer class action settlement was made in 2007 and, as Overlawyered readers might remember, rejected by the court, with the court’s decision to decertify the class still on appeal.
It’s unclear to me why either of those got it wrong, given that I contacted both Glovin and Itzkoff to let them know their error; Bloomberg issued two updates after my email, and Itzkoff had a chance to rewrite his incorrect blog post before it appeared in today’s Times, but neither has the story straight.
Unfortunately, the story incorrectly refers to AEI as a “lobbying organization,” which it is definitively not. It is unimaginable how the Times could have made this mistake, given that just three weeks ago, they had to correct an identical mistake; the senior editor has promised me a correction.