Articles Posted in Products Liability

A Gretna man was thrown from his go-kart while racing through a track curve and collided with the pavement.  The individual claims that the vehicle he was riding in hit rocks and other debris located on the track, which caused him to be ejected at a speed which caused him significant injuries.  The injured racer brought suit against NOLA Motor Club LLC, as well as others, alleging vicarious liability as well as numerous failures on the part of the company and its staff.

The root of all Louisiana liability law is the somewhat oddly phrased Article 2315 of the Civil Code.  “Every act whatever of man that causes damage to another obliges him by whose fault it happened to repair it.”  Essentially, this means that if you perform an act that damages someone else you are required to right those damages.  However, real life is rarely so clean cut and to the point.  Almost every phrase of that sentence can be muddied by circumstance.  What if someone else acted with you?  What if the injured person also played some part in the act?  What if it is unclear whether or not it was your specific act that actually injured the person?  Thus, the law had to be broken down further into neater categories.

The vicarious liability theory applicable to this go-karter’s case would be that of employer liability.  Article 2320 states, albeit also somewhat antiquatedly, “Masters and employers are answerable for the damage occasioned by their servants and overseers, in the exercise of the functions in which they are employed.”  As such, NOLA Motor Club is responsible for the action, or lack of actions, of their employees that cause injury to someone as long as such performance was within their normal duties as an employee.  This is why it is important for companies to advise and train their employees with the greatest of care.  However, sometimes even the most rigorous and stringent training cannot prevent some injuries from occurring.  Even so, an employer by their very nature takes responsibility for the acts of its employees that occur during normal operations.

The bicycle manufacturer, Trek, is recalling over 900,000 bicycles in the United States after series of accidents caused by a defect, one of which left the user paralyzed.  The Consumer Product Safety Commission stated that a quick-release lever can come into contact with the front disc brake assembly, resulting in either total wheel separation or an instant stop.  The recall consists of models built from 2000 to 2015 equipped with front disc brakes and a black or silver quick release lever on the front wheel hub.  Bikes equipped with front release levers that do not open 180 degrees from the closed position are not included in the recall.

This recall will doubtlessly avoid many serious injuries but never would have happened without the courageous lawsuit filed on behalf of a client of Broussard & David, LLC. Cycling and engineering experts overcame Treks denial of fault. Diligent prosecution of important product liability claims is not new to Broussard & David.  Attorneys have obtained record verdicts and settlements for five decades on a wide range of products including automobiles, boats, tractors, forklifts, trailers, farm equipment, airplanes and helicopters.

Individuals injured by the defective products have the potential to recover from the manufacturers, suppliers, or sellers of such products.  Such actions fall under the legal field of products liability and are generally brought under the legal theories of negligence, warranty, strict liability or a combination or variation of the three, depending on the circumstances of the case.  The Louisiana Products Liability Act, enacted in 1988, provides that the “manufacturer of a product is liable for damage ‘proximately caused’ by the product to any person if the product, when put to a reasonably anticipated use, is unreasonably dangerous because of its construction or composition, its design, an adequate warning was not provided, or an express warranty about the product was not satisfied.” La. R.S. 9:2800.52.

Many of us have undoubtedly taken advantage of the recent low gas prices. At well under $2.00/gallon in January and February, gasoline consumption has skyrocketed. And as we flock in droves to our local gas stations, we expect properly working equipment; we expect safeguards. But, sometimes, these safeguards fail, exposing gas station customers to a multitude of dangers. In a recent lawsuit filed against Brothers Belle Chasse LLC and Exxon Mobil Corporation, a Terrytown man allegedly received several injuries sustained while pumping gas at the iconic “Brothers” gas station. As the petition sets forth, the plaintiff was pumping gas when the gas hose ruptured, spraying gasoline on him. The injuries primarily complained of are the alleged result of gasoline making contact with his left eye.

Such malfunctions occur when the gas station owners, managers, and attendants fail to properly maintain the protective safeguards of gas stations as required by law, oftentimes resulting in injury. In this particular instance of the Terrytown Brothers gas station, the plaintiff is alleging the gas stations’ “fail[ure] to correct a hazard, creating a dangerous condition, failing to adequately inspect and failing to warn customers.” As illustrated by this case, individuals responsible for maintain a safe environment at gas stations must adhere to regulations, and must make the effort to ensure that their stations are always operating in a safe manner.

The attorneys at Broussard & David have the knowledge and experience necessary to handle cases of this nature and will fight to obtain fair compensation for your injuries. If you or a loved one has suffered harm as a result of another’s negligence, contact the attorneys at Broussard & David to discuss your legal rights at (337) 233-2323 (local) or (888) 337-2323 (toll-free).

A Gretna mother recently filed suit for injuries sustained by her four-year-old son during an attack by a neighborhood pit bull. The plaintiff alleges that the defendant, who keeps four pit bulls in his fenced-in yard next door to the plaintiff, failed to supervise and control the dogs thereby negligently permitting them to roam the neighborhood from an opening in the fence.

The plaintiff claims that, on the day of the incident, her son was chasing their family cat around the neighborhood when he ran by the opening in their neighbor’s fence through which the dogs commonly exited the yard. As the child approached this opening, one of the pit bulls reached through the opening in the fence, biting the child and dragging him through to the neighboring yard. The child sustained scratches and lacerations to his face and skull, severe lacerations to his thigh, puncture wounds, bruises, and contusions.

Like most, if not all, jurisdictions, Louisiana recognizes negligence as a theory of liability upon a showing that the defendant (1) owed a duty of care, (2) the defendant breached the duty owed, (3) the defendant’s substandard conduct was both a cause-in-fact and legal cause of the plaintiff’s injuries, (4) actual damages. Successfully proving each of these elements establishes a prima facie case of negligence from which a plaintiff may recover for damages sustained.

A Macy’s Department Store in Metairie recently became the subject of a premises liability action filed by a customer who reportedly slipped on a rug while shopping in the store.

The plaintiff reported that, in early December of 2013, she tripped and fell on a rug that was placed on the floor. As a result of her fall, the plaintiff claims that she injured her knee in the process. Attorneys for the plaintiff claim that the placement of the rug “created and represented an unreasonable risk of harm,” as well as demonstrating the merchant’s failure to properly inspect the premises and maintain a reasonably safe condition. The plaintiff seeks over $50,000 in compensatory damages.

The plaintiff’s lawsuit falls under the recognized theory of liability known “premises liability.” Premises liability against merchants is recognized in Louisiana and governed by Louisiana Revised Statutes 9:2800.6. This statute provides: “A merchant owes a duty to persons who use his premises to exercise reasonable care to keep his aisles, passageways, and floors in a reasonably safe condition. This duty includes a reasonable effort to keep the premises free of any hazardous conditions which reasonably my give rise to damage.”

When an individual suffers an injury at the hands of another, it can be a devastating experience to both the individual and his or her family. It can impose unforeseen medical costs, result in an inability to work, create a dire financial hardship, or otherwise create a very difficult experience for everyone involved. But this is why we have the civil justice system: to make the victim “whole” by providing a means for obtaining legal relief against the wrongdoer.

In pursuit of fairness and equity, however, the law sometimes recognizes considerations in favor of the wrongdoer. One of the most prominent of these considerations are statutes of limitations—or, as we say here in Louisiana, “prescription”. Prescription describes the procedural device that places a time limit on a plaintiff’s right to pursue a claim. So, for instance, if you were injured as a result of another person’s negligence, you have one year to file the claim in court before prescription bars you from filing the lawsuit altogether. While there are many nuances to this general rule and different prescriptive periods for different causes of action, it generally operates in this way. As mentioned above, prescription works in favor of the wrongdoer and for good reason. It ensures that injured plaintiffs pursue their claims with reasonable diligence, it gives defendants certainty about the timing of a potential claim against them so they can adequately prepare a defense, and it keeps the lawsuit temporally close to when the injury occurred so that potential witnesses and evidence to be presented at trial are still available.

But lawsuits can sometimes get overly complicated, leading to oversights and inaccuracies by parties to the suit, attorneys, and judges. One classic instance of such an oversight is where the plaintiff names the improper defendant in the lawsuit, and in the meantime, prescription on the claim against the proper defendant runs. What happens in this situation? Do the courts let procedural rules trump the overarching goals of equity and fairness in the justice system?

Operating in violation of both the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), ATP Infrastructure Partners LP (ATP-IP) has agreed to pay a $1 million civil penalty to settle a federal lawsuit over illegal discharges of oil and chemicals from an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico.

The lawsuit, instituted by the United States, was resolved by way of joint judicial enforcement action involving the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), and the Justice Department.

In its complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, the United States alleged that ATP-IP “violated Section 311(b)(3) of the CWA when oil and other pollutants were discharged into the Gulf of Mexico from the ATP Innovator.” Violation of this provision in the CWA opened up ATP-IP to possible civil penalties. The United States also urged that ATP-IP was liable for injunctive relief under OCSLA, “as the owner of the ATP Innovator … [for] hidden piping configuration [that] was being used to inject a chemical dispersant into the facility’s wastewater discharge outfall pipe to mask excess amounts of oil being discharged into the ocean.”

Reduction of traffic accidents—particularly fatal traffic accidents—has long been at the center of public debate and the ambition of state and federal policymakers. The 1960s proved a watershed decade for transformation of traffic safety. With traffic fatalities on the rise in the 1960s, spiking at 49,000 traffic fatalities in 1965, public concern over traffic safety began to dominate the national discussion. Culminating with the 1965 publication of Ralph Nader’s “Unsafe at Any Speed”—a book that issued scathing criticisms of vehicle manufacturers for their willfully rejecting the addition of safety features into their automobiles—policymakers reacted. By calling on states to erect highway safety measures, the Highway Safety Act passed by Congress in 1966 was the first of many concentrated efforts to reduce this increasing problem. One important feature of this legislation was that it created the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, which primarily operates as a safety administrator, promulgating rules designed to increase safety on highways, but also to increase safety of the vehicles themselves by imposing regulations on manufacturers.

With the bulk of this debate happening from the 1960s forward, traffic safety has long been on the minds of citizens and policymakers. Improving safety based on readily observable causes—prohibiting intoxicated driving, reducing speed limits, requiring operating traffic signals, etc.—is one thing, but as a recent study reveals, sometimes the causal or correlative connection between a phenomenon and traffic safety is more mysterious.

A recent study by University of Colorado-Boulder PhD candidate Austin Smith revealed a curious correlation between daylight savings time and increased traffic fatalities. This study reviewed data on fatal vehicle accidents from 2002 to 2011 and compared the number of fatal accidents that occur just before and after daylight savings time changes took effect.

Operating in violation of both the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), ATP Infrastructure Partners LP (ATP-IP) has agreed to pay a $1 million civil penalty to settle a federal lawsuit over illegal discharges of oil and chemicals from an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico.

The lawsuit, instituted by the United States, was resolved by way of joint judicial enforcement action involving the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), and the Justice Department.

In its complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, the United States alleged that ATP-IP “violated Section 311(b)(3) of the CWA when oil and other pollutants were discharged into the Gulf of Mexico from the ATP Innovator.” Violation of this provision in the CWA opened up ATP-IP to possible civil penalties. The United States also urged that ATP-IP was liable for injunctive relief under OCSLA, “as the owner of the ATP Innovator … [for] hidden piping configuration [that] was being used to inject a chemical dispersant into the facility’s wastewater discharge outfall pipe to mask excess amounts of oil being discharged into the ocean.”

As Halloween approaches, I’m reminded of a story I was told growing up–a story that has spread like wildfire and survived the ages. It’s the story of a young child, happily trick-or-treating in his neighborhood and too fixated on his chocolate, sugary boon to care about any potential for harm. As the young child explores his neighborhood, bouncing from home-to-home, he approaches one residence that has opted to hand over candied apples to its trick-or-treaters instead of candy. The young child approaches the home, receives his candied apple in exchange for his promise not to “trick” and then scampers off to his next target home. Later that night, inspecting his bounty, the young child discovers a razor blade in his candied apple–a razor blade that, had he bitten down on it, would’ve caused him serious injury. Those of you reading this are tempted to relegate this story to “urban legend” status, a story designed to scare children into safer Halloween habits. However, I instead encourage you to think about this scenario as a basic, yet well-recognized example, of Products Liability law.

The area of tort law known as Products Liability deals with rights, duties, obligations, and standards associated with the distribution and safety of products. That is, manufacturers are liable for the personal injury or other damage caused by their defective product. Intuitive as it may sound, this was not always the case. Before Louisiana extended this right to injured plaintiffs–the right to seek remuneration for personal injuries caused by defective products–courts often denied injured plaintiffs’ claims due to the legal doctrine of “privity of contract.” Under this doctrine, courts conceived products liability to be a contractual matter, and recovery against the seller was rooted in contractual remedies. Accordingly, this “privity” required that the defendant-manufacturer be a party to the contract of sale in order to provide remedies outside of the law of contracts. Since manufacturers rarely sell their products directly to customers, but instead sell them to retailers who distribute them to the public, manufacturers were often shielded from liability.

Gradually, the conception that products liability was restricted to the realm of contracts started to erode. For example, the Restatement of Torts adopted a provision “providing limited strict liability of the manufacturer of a product for the personal injury damages caused by a defect in the product.” This approach to products liability was later adopted by the Louisiana Supreme Court in Weber v. Fidelity & Cas. Ins. Co. of NY, 250 So. 2d 754 (La. 1971), which provided for manufacturers’ strict liability in tort for their defective/injurious products.

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