What does Product Liability mean?

What does Product Liability mean?

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What does Product Liability Mean?

Product liability means you prove that a product is defective and that a defect has caused an injury or a death. It’s different than an ordinary case because you need experts, engineers, and especially reconstruction experts. You need all of these technical experts to be able to tell you:

“Yes, the product is defective.”

and

“Yes, this defect caused this accident and this injury or death.”

So, it’s a complicated area of the law which requires certain legal knowledge on behalf of the lawyers who handle those cases. It also requires an ability on behalf of those lawyers to hire the right experts to prove the case, ultimately to a jury if that’s required. In many cases, this expert presentation in a trial can cost literally hundreds of thousands of dollars because of the technology that’s needed in order to present those kinds of cases.

Have a potential product liability case? Contact us today.

Remedy for Defective Airbags May Result in More Injuries and Death

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Air Bag Defect Attorney - The Cooper Firm

Remedy for Defective Airbags May Result in More Injuries and Death

It is already pretty alarming that over eight million vehicles from 10 different automakers have been recalled for defective airbags that could explode sending out shrapnel and injure passengers. To make matters worse, Takata, the airbag manufacturer, does not have enough replacement airbags for all the recalled vehicles. But the solution to this problem could be just as worrying.

Toyota is planning on disabling the defective airbags once they run out of replacements. Toyota has recalled 800,000 cars so far. A Toyota spokeswoman said that this decision is “an indication of how seriously we take the problem.” The company plans on putting a sticker on the passenger side dashboard of the car warning individuals not to ride in the front seat after the airbags are disabled. Toyota says the solution is only temporary and the airbags will be replaced once more are supplied from Takata.

Safety experts are not completely on board with this solution. Considering that only a small percentage of defective airbags could explode in a crash, disabling airbags could result in killing more people. In the case of an accident, an airbag provides protection beyond that of a seat belt. Disabling the airbags could be more deadly than the initial problem. Despite the safety expert’s hesitation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave Toyota permission to disable the airbags. Normally, it would be illegal for an automaker to do so.

Even though Takata does not have enough replacement airbags, Toyota and the NHTSA are still urging consumers to take their vehicles in to be serviced regardless. On average, about a third of recalled cars are never repaired according to industry estimates.

GM has recalled 80,000 vehicles for airbag problems, but will not be disabling airbags when Takata runs out. The company plans on giving out loaner vehicles if they run out of replacement parts. Other automakers have failed to comment on if they plan on disabling the airbags. NHTSA is urging Takata to manufacture more replacement airbags quickly, but the manufacturer has not returned any request for comments on when they will be able to produce enough airbags for the 8 million recalled vehicles.

Source: CNN

Injured by a defective product?

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Tires - The Cooper Firm

Injured by a defective product?

Defective products can be very dangerous and can often times cause injuries or even wrongful death. In order for a product to be defective it must be either defectively designed, defectively made, or there must be a failure to warn of the dangers associated with the product’s normal use. In order to pursue a product liability/defective product claim, one must prove that the defective product was the cause of their injuries. One must also prove that they sustained compensatory damages such as medical bills, lost wages, pain, and impairment. Product liability cases can also be pursued as a result of a wrongful death of an individual.

Many business types can be found negligent for a defective product. Manufacturers, advertisers, designers, sellers/retailers and distributors can potentially be held liable for a product liability causing an injury. If you or someone you know was been injured as a result of a product, contact an attorney immediately to help you protect your rights. You should also hold on to the defective product. Make sure to keep any packaging or instructions. If it is a vehicle, make sure that the vehicle is in a safe place and is not altered. An attorney will help you in investigating the product. Be sure to take pictures of your injuries and keep the names and contact information of any witnesses.

There are many different products that can injure consumers. If you have a question about a product, you can always contact the Consumer Product Safety Commission and report any problems you may be having.

Driver Assisted Technologies: The Future Is Now

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Vehicle Safety Technology Attorney - The Cooper Firm

Driver Assisted Technologies: The Future Is Now

Driver assisted technologies (“DAT”) are just that.  They are technologies designed to assist the driver operate the car.   They rely primarily on sensor technology to monitor the driver’s behavior, the car, and areas around the car.   If a hazard inside or outside the car is detected, the DAT will intervene to change the car’s behavior or path, or use an alarm to alert the driver.   DAT will improve driver safety, reduce collisions or the severity of collisions, and inevitably lead to newer designs and ever-safer cars.

Drivers have been using rear cameras for some time now, and it has reduced backing accidents and blind-spot deaths.  Some of the newer and more current DATs include the following: Driver Drowsiness Detection, Predictive Emergency Braking Systems, Lane Assist Systems, Rear Cross Traffic Alerts, Construction Zone Assists, Predictive Pedestrian Protection, Intelligent Speed Adaptation, Vehicle Communication Systems, and Traffic Sign Recognition, to name but a few.

There Will Be Defects.   As with all technologies, however, there will be glitches and design and manufacturing defects.  Sensors will not sense.  Radar will not detect.  Drivers must remain ever alert, and not rely wholly on sensing systems until they are proven flawless—and that may never be the case.

Sensors will not sense.   If sensors are broken, programmed wrongly, or broken too easily, then the DAT will malfunction and can actually give the driver incorrect data.   This itself might cause a collision, or it might cause the driver not to trust the DAT, thereby reducing its effectiveness.   They might speed up a car when it needs to slow down.   It might cause a car to not see an obvious hazard.

Algorithms will not compute fully, or at all.   It’s already thought that some airbags are not deploying in current cars because of algorithm errors.   Sensors rely on programs and algorithm.  If those are inadequate or contain a programming error, or a math error, then the DAT will not ready the situation correctly and may harm the driver.    For example, it might cause an airbag not to deploy, or a make a car speed up in a school zone.

Override sensors might fail.  Most modern DAT and car technology plans for a driver override switch.   Some kind of switch to let the driver take control over the car in an emergency.  Those too might fail and leave a driver worse off than before his car got DAT devices.

DATs will undoubtedly make cars better and drivers safer.  But safety advocates, like The Cooper Firm, will continue to be vigilant to ensure that the new technology does more good than harm, and to help those when it does not.

Product Liability Claims: What Does The Future Hold? – Part III

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Pat - Marietta Personal Injury Attorney

Product Liability Claims:    What Does The Future Hold? – Part III

In case you missed last week’s Product Liability Claims’s: What Does The Future Hold? – Part I and Part II, you can check it out here and here.

The Future Future

a.   Send In The Drones 

Drones are the classic example of how wartime research and development drive commercial and consumer development.   War accelerates the R & D, and the resulting products, de-weaponized of course, end up in the consumer market.  With advent of newer technology and better GPS systems, drones will be everywhere.

i.  Air.   Flying drones are now no longer just for hunting terrorists.   They will appear in most facets of our life.  They will be small and large.   Drones will deliver essentials like pizza, books, and beer.[1]  There will be UPS drones and FedEx drones.  Amazon will send you products, and pick up your returns.[2]  Larger drones will lift and remove wrecked cars from accident scenes.   Ambulance heli-drones, possibly occupied by EMTs, will land near that accident and help remove injured people.   They will deliver tickets to you as their cameras catch you speeding down the road.   Rather, it is more likely that you will get the ticket in your in-car email before you get home.   Drones will spray crops.   They will inspect large, hard to reach structures (as they are doing now at oil refineries).   They will perform surveillance duties.   They will be used for scientific and consumer purposes.[3]   And, as with anything that flies, they will fail and drop out of the sky, or fail and deliver something heavy on top of someone or some thing.   And so on.

              ii.  Sea.   Drones will go to sea too.   Ships are expected to be drone-ized in the future.[4]   Crewless ships will greatly reduce expenses and increase net profits.   But, they too will fail, and hit bridges, wharves, and people.   Shipments will be lost or damaged.

             iii.  Land.   Any car that is self-driving might likewise be called a land drone.   But aside from cars, there will be cargo trucks, buses, and so on.  The military is, again, already testing an “Autonomous Mobility Appliqué System (AMAS) program, and [have seen driverless] vehicles successfully navigate an urban-style route, complete with obstacles a real-world convoy might encounter (humans, junctions etc.).”[5]  Basically, anything that can move and carry people and/or cargo will one day be a drone.   And be piloted by someone remotely or by automated GPS systems.

b.  Nanotech.   Nanotechnology (“nanotech”) is the manipulation of matter on an atomicmolecular, and supramolecular scale. The earliest, widespread description of nanotechnology referred to the particular technological goal of precisely manipulating atoms and molecules for fabrication of macroscale products, also now referred to as molecular nanotechnology. A more generalized description of nanotechnology was subsequently established by the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which defines nanotechnology as the manipulation of matter with at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometers. This definition reflects the fact that quantum mechanical effects are important at this quantum-realm scale, and so the definition shifted from a particular technological goal to a research category inclusive of all types of research and technologies that deal with the special properties of matter that occur below the given size threshold.  . . .   Because of the variety of potential applications (including industrial and military), governments have invested billions of dollars in nanotechnology research. Through its National Nanotechnology Initiative, the USA has invested 3.7 billion dollars. The European Union has invested 1.2 billion and Japan 750 million dollars.

As of 2008, it was estimated that nanotechnology was already in use in over 800 manufactured products.   New products appear in the market at about 3 to 4 a week.  Nanotech helps make sunscreens, cosmetics, surface coatings, certain tapes, food additives, packing, disinfectants, paints, fuel catalysts, sports equipment, clothing that cools, lighter cars, increased computer memory, and medical applications.  Some think future nanotech might be used to attack cancers.  In any event, a nano-machine is still a machine, and the same three tenets (manufacture, design, and warnings) are likely to apply to them in the future as they gain more widespread use, as they are expected to do.   And along with that will come the expected product failures and injuries.

c.  3D Printing.   Three dimensional printing (“3D printing”) is another new manufacturing technology that is taking off dramatically and will expand.   It will change how many things and made, and who makes them.   Consumers will, in some instances, make the product that ends up hurting them.  Wikipedia describes 3D printing thus:

3D printing or Additive manufacturing is a process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model.   3D printing is achieved using an additive process, where successive layers of material are laid down in different shapes.   3D printing is also considered distinct from traditional machining techniques, which mostly rely on the removal of material by methods such as cutting or drilling (subtractive processes). The printers are essentially computer-controlled robots.   They are already in use, and have been used to “print” guns, fighter jet components, prosthetic arms, architectural models, sports cleats, concept cars, wheelchair ramps, skin and bones for grafting, toys, horseshoes, windpipes, clothes, and various plastic and chocolate items. “Three-dimensional printing makes it as cheap to create single items as it is to produce thousands and thus undermines economies of scale.  It may have as profound an impact on the world as the coming of the factory did….  Just as nobody could have predicted the impact of the steam engine in 1750—or the printing press in 1450, or the transistor in 1950—it is impossible to foresee the long-term impact of 3D printing.  But the technology is coming, and it is likely to disrupt every field it touches.”   And the three tenets will apply there too, but there may be future legal questions about who the actual manufacturer of a “product” is.   Certainty, there will be claims against the printer companies and the companies that supply the commercial ingredients for the printed item, especially when the item fails and causes injury.

d.  Self-Driving Cars.   Given all the sensor technology and the active safety feature research and drone advances, it is no wonder that we expect self-driving cars by 2025.   Google is working on one now, and its efforts have been well documented. The cars work by “stacking layers of data collected from its spinning, rooftop-mounted lasers, a front-facing camera, highly sensitive GPS, radar, and sensors to form a living, breathing map of the territory, with which the onboard computer can define and navigate a safe route.” Right now, a driver must sit in the driver’s seat, right next to a large “kill switch,” which would let the driver take control over the car.   Later, however, it is anticipated that the cars will be completely autonomous, and passengers, especially disabled or elderly or blind, will be able to sit in rear or side seats.   Obviously, a more complex car will require more complex technology and manufacturing processes, and those can and will all go bad at some point or another, in both traditional and more complex ways.   This new “car” also raises a few interesting questions:   Who gets the speeding ticket?  And who gets sued when the car crashes and hurts a third-party?  Will run of the mill car crashes become products liability cases?   Who ran the red-light?–the car or the back seat passenger who was reading a book or on the phone?

e.  Connected Vehicle Technology (“CVT”).  “Connected vehicle systems are based on Dedicated Short Range Communications (DRSC)—a technology similar to Wi-Fi—which is fast, secure, reliable, and until to be vulnerable to interference.”   CVT allows cars to talk to one another to avoid collisions, and alert drivers about merging cars, cars in the blind side, or sudden turns or braking by a nearby by car.  It could one day alert motorist to nearby hazards, bad road conditions, or dangerous curves.   The cars could also “talk” to road infrastructure, such as tolls, school zones, traffic signals, and so on.

f.  Genetically Modified Organisms (“GMOs”).   A GMO is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. Organisms that have been genetically modified include micro-organisms such as bacteria and yeast, insects, plants, fish, and mammals. GMOs are the source of genetically modified foods, and are also widely used in scientific research and to produce goods other than food. The term GMO is very close to the technical legal term, ‘living modified organism’ defined in the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which regulates international trade in living GMOs (specifically, “any living organism that possesses a novel combination of genetic material obtained through the use of modern biotechnology”). And there is great controversy about it.  “Genetic manipulation is different and so far fraught with danger.  It works by forcibly inserting a single gene from a species’ DNA into another unnaturally.” One researcher puts it this way: “A pig can mate with a pig and a tomato can mate with a tomato.  But there is no way that a pig can mate with a tomato and vice versa.”  The process transfers genes across natural barriers that “separated species over millions of years of evolution” and managed to work. The biotech industry now wants us to believe it can do nature one better, and that genetic engineering is just an extension or superior alternative to natural breeding.

Some researchers are already seeing that animals fed GMO foods  showed “showed stunted growth, impaired immune systems, bleeding stomachs, abnormal and potentially precancerous cell growth in the intestines, impaired blood cell development, misshaped cell structures in the liver, pancreas and testicles, altered gene expression and cell metabolism, liver and kidney lesions, partially atrophied livers, inflamed kidneys, less developed organs, reduced digestive enzymes, higher blood sugar, inflamed lung tissue, increased death rates and higher offspring mortality as well.”  Farmers could lose whole crops and herds.  That is the short-term potential harm.  The transgene change to animals and to humans could be unforeseen, irrevocable, and catastrophic.  But, GMOs appear here to stay, so it is one area that bears watching and demands expert and unbiased oversight.  Once the genetic genie is out of the bottle, change will be unstoppable.

g.  More Robots:   The Google® Mule.   Google recently bought the rights from DARPA to develop DARPA’s robotic mule.  Although currently slated for military use, expect to see mules or similar robots in use in commercial and/or consumer projects one day.   They will carry heavy loads and objects, equipment, and maybe one day will also carry people as well.

h.  Commercial and Medical Exo-Skeletons.   In the movies Aliens 2 in 1986, Avatar in 2009, and the upcoming Edge of Tomorrow in 2014, future soldiers use advanced exoskeletons to work and fight.  Such suits would be worn and fitted to the user’s body, and allow him or her to lift enormously heavy objects, run and travel rapidly, and fight or work as needed in even the harshest environments.  Military research will again likely drive the exoskeletons into the civilian world, where they will be used in construction and other commercial endeavors.  They may also be used one day to improve the daily lives and mobility of quadriplegics, paraplegics, and multiple amputees, among others.   One can readily imagine sporting events inexorably appearing, with human teams in exo-suits competing in some extreme “sport.”  The suits will no doubt be useful, once made spaceworthy or seaworthy, in space exploration and undersea exploration and commerce.  There will be failures and deaths as these products emerge.

i.  The Flying Car.  And, of course, there is the defining product in future tech, namely, the flying car.   Work is underway to develop them in the next few years.   See  http://www.terrafugia.com/.   Combining so many of the technologies listed above, flying cars are every driver’s daydream.   “Imagine if you could just flip a switch and unshackle yourself from the asphalt!”  But, as the song goes, “Those magnificent men in their flying machines, They go up diddley up-up, they go down diddley down-down!”  So, when the flight switch does not work, call us after you recover.

Product Liability Claims: What Does The Future Hold? – Part I

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Product Liability Claims: What Does the Future Hold – Part I

DAEMON_1308222_7214A2The Future is Now:   More of the Same

As the old French proverb goes, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”  Products liability is, and will likely always be, premised on three basic tenets:

1. Design.   Things break because they are dangerously designed.

2. Manufacturing.   Things break because they are made poorly.

3. Warnings.  Things are inherently hazardous, but no adequate warning is given.

Back To The Future

As the tenets remain unchanged, so too do many of the essential tactics in the fight against unsafe products.  Some of those tactics include:

Developing Your  OSIs.   Other similar incidents (“OSIs”) will always be a key element of proof in any products case.   Juries put great stock in them, with only a few OSIs opening the door to punitive damages.

Obtaining Sharing Protective Orders.   Confidentiality Orders that permit you to share your discovery with other lawyers handling similar cases will remain a must.   Although fairly common in the 1990s and early 2000s, these orders seem less common now.   Continue fighting for one, showing the judge the many benefits to your client, namely, that injured Georgia citizen standing in the judge’s courtroom.  And, counter the (false) argument that such orders will add to the busy judge’s already busy caseload.  They are rarely, if ever, violated, and the judge will not be “handling cases all over the United States.”  Sharing orders greatly enhance your ability to discover critical documents and data, and to keep the manufacturer honest in its responses.

Conducting Aggressive E-Discovery.    As storage methods go more electronic and high-tech than ever, you will need to dig ever deeper to get the data.   More sophisticated storage means more sophisticated hiding.   More data will be stored (and/or hidden) in the cloud or on other media.

Requiring Ethical Qualified Oversight.  Those interested in product safety will need to stay ever involved in the regulatory process.  We will need to demand oversight, regulation, and modern adequate safety testing.  We are uniquely situated to assist in identifying and regulating safety hazards out of products.  As history has taught, things go wrong when modern technologies emerge in the absence of equally emerging ethical and sound oversight.

Stay tuned next week for Part II.

-Lance Cooper and Pat Dawson

Product Liability Claims: What Does The Future Hold? – Part II

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Pat - Marietta Personal Injury Attorney

Product Liability Claims: What Does The Future Hold? – Part II

In case you missed last week’s Product Liability Claims’s: What Does The Future Hold?, you can check it out here.

The Immediate Future

Available studies and current trends point to a number of fairly new or newly-modified technologies that will spawn products liability claims.   Some are already ongoing.  Some of those include the following:

a.  ESC (Lack Of).   Electronic stability control (“ESC”) is an active safety device that prevents cars from going out of control after they have encountered conditions that would normally cause an accident.  Sensors quickly and automatically perform a variety of braking functions, and bring the car back into control.  ESC has been around since the 1990s.   Many cars did not have ESC until just a few years ago.   NHTSA adopted Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 126, which requires certain passenger cars, multi-purpose passenger vehicles, trucks and buses to be equipped with an ESC system.  In many cases, car makers should have implemented ESC technology earlier on a number of their cars and those cars, of course, continue to be driven today.

b.  ESC (System Failure).   ESC works to prevent a loss of control.  Sensors installed in the car sense the rear tires beginning to slide out, the technology works by applying brakes and reducing the engine power.  To work, ESC must sense the impending loss of control.  Obviously, if any one of the sensors is made or designed defectively, then the ESC may fail.

c.  Air Bags (Failures and Deployment).   Air bags are a maturing technology in the front of the car, but still an emerging technology in other areas of the car.   More bags are being fitted into more parts of the cars, and they are expected to do more.   They can, however, always fail to deploy.  They can, in fact, deploy too hard, striking the user more like a Mike Tyson punch than the feather-soft bag shown on TV.  Bag deployment aggressivity, overly strong and hardened bags, and tethering are ongoing issues in air bag cases, as is explosion of module components into the face or eyes of the user.  The ubiquitous sensors will fail.   Note too that airbags sometimes fail because of issues “upstream,” as in key and ignition switch failures, which in turn shut down the air bag system so that it does not deploy when the car crashes because it has lost power-steering and/or braking functions.

d.  Sensors.  Both passive and active safety devices, as well as many other components, rely on sensors that must detect changes in milliseconds.   A failure of the sensor is a failure of the device.   Inadequate or defective sensors will likely remain a focus of any product liability claim where a safety feature did not work or deploy.

e.  Epi-Pens.   Deadly food and insect allergies are on the rise.   Legislation recently passed that puts so-called Epi-pens, automatic drug and/or epinephrine injectors, in most schools.   Those pens can fail to inject or contain ineffective epinephrine.   Metal bends and springs fail.  The “sharp end” might not be as sharp or as beveled as needed.   Warnings and labels might also fail to warn about usage and/or efficacy of the drug when its past its stated expiration date.

f.  Medical Devices.  Other medical devices, such as defibrillators, pacemakers, hips, knees, vaginal meshes, and joints are increasingly important in our aging population.   Obviously, the failure of any of these during an emergency or normal use, especially if implanted in the body, can cause significant injuries or death.

g.  Robotic Surgery.   Over 1500 surgical robots work in American hospitals.   They can perform hysterectomies, prostatectomies, cardiac surgeries, bariatric surgeries, and many other types.   The robots have a series of arms that cut, probe, cauterize, and sew.   Metallurgical defects, electrical current defects, and sensor (those things again) defects can cause malfunctions and severe damage, including thermal and electrical burns, tears and lacerations, damage to the urethra, torn blood vessels, damaged nerves, and vaginal cuff dehiscence because of sewing errors.   More than fifty-seven percent of surgeons using a robot have reported robot failures during surgeries, so the robot technology is far from perfected.   But, despite their overall novelty, there are safer alternative designs to some of the various components installed inside the robot.  That is where you seek the safer alternative design in emerging technologies, namely, from the older technologies inside the newer one.

h.  Chinese Products.   Although improving, it is still a bit of the Wild West for Chinese manufacturers.  Ranging from too much lead in dishes to contaminated drywall, Chinese products sometimes contain hazards and defects.   Their car industry is now ramping up.  We can expect birthing pains and early defects, as those manufacturers become more familiar with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards that apply to cars sold in the United States.

i.  Heads Up Displays.   Heads Up Displays (“HUDs”), first pioneered in military jets and helicopters, will eventually work their way into cars and civilian products.   They will be in cars, trucks, and possibly motorcycle helmets.   Smartphone apps will connect, and be distracting.  Errant readings might cause property damage or severe crashes.    

j.  Lithium Ion Batteries.   Most of the newest technology cannot run without a power source.  Lithium ion batteries appear in most everything now, including smartphones, laptop computers, GPS devices and iPods, and cars.  Jet fighters and electric cars have them.  And at least the cars are already catching fire.  The batteries themselves are fairly dangerous just to store and transport.  As “packages of energy,” they can explode.  If they do, they release hydrofluoric acid, which is noxious and toxic.   If you have an “unexplained” house fire, check the house and garage for lithium ion batteries.   Despite their hazards, they are the best current battery technology and will be used in many more upcoming products.   They need care, and continued investigation and regulatory oversight.

k.  Smart Keys.  Yes, even keys can be a problem as they get smarter.  They work by proximity, and do not start or stop the car like a traditional car key.   They merely allow the user to press a “start” button.   Quiet engines and a lack of a “tell-tale: engine off system of sounds or lights” have led to several carbon-monoxide deaths when drivers inadvertently left their car running in a closely attached garages.   At least six people have died since 2009, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is tracking the issue.   There have also been cases of “rollaway” when drivers thought they had turned off the car, but had actually left it in the “park” position, and it rolled off.  That, too, obviously, is a serious hazard as well.   Additional sensors and visual and audible warnings might alleviate some of these hazards.

l.  Electric Cars.  More and more companies are making electric cars.   Fires seem to be the most common worry so far, with companies like Tesla working hard to assure consumers that the reported fires in their electric cars are not a systemic problem, but then recalling them after all.  There is also concern that wrecked electric cars might be a shock hazard to first responders.

m.  Collision Imminent Braking.   As featured in the Hyundai Super Bowl ad on February 2, 2014, new braking technology takes some emergency braking out of the hands of the driver and gives it to the car.  Once fully perfected, it is likely to be a sea change in modern car safety.  The operative words there, of course, are “once perfected.”   As with any new technology, there will be problems and hiccups along the way.

n.  Additional passive safety devices.   Such devices “are automatically activated during and accident and often are federally mandated (though this is becoming increasingly true for active safety features) and standard across a given manufacturer’s line.”  Are more features are added, there is more safety, but also more room for mechanical or design failures.

o.  Additional active safety devices.  These devices “are accident-avoidance technologies.   Cross-traffic alert and blind-spot assistance systems are examples.”  Much of the newer safety technology is based on active safety, namely, preventing the crash in the first place, and is extremely promising.   Some others include lane change assist, self-parking, adaptive cruise control, braking assist, side impact warnings, and lane departure warnings.  The technologies will employ radar, LIDAR, ultrasound, infrared, cameras, and GPS devices.  It is from this technology that much of the self-driving car technology will emerge.

p.  New Firearms Technology.  There is heavy pressure on firearms makers to add new technologies to weapons to make them safer.  These so-called “smart guns” would include owner-sensor triggers that will not work fire unless the gun is in the owner’s hands.   Or they may include some other biometric safety feature or voice activation.  “Most of the developers who have entered the competition [to design smart weapons] are looking to put biometric technology on weapons, such as voice recognition or palm print scanners, which would only allow authorized people to fire them.”  It is not hard to imagine a failure in which the owner needs to use the weapon for self-defense, but is unable to do so.

q.  X-Treme Sporting Technologies.   Wingsuits, which seem to mimic flying squirrels, are already in use in extreme sports and skydiving activities.  It is not hard to imagine product failures, and the disastrous consequences of falling out of the sky.  More dangerous and advanced sporting gear will evolve, fail, injure people, and then, hopefully, mature and be less dangerous.  In the interim, there will be products liability lawsuits.

Stay tuned next week for the “Future Future” of product liability.

-Lance Cooper and Pat Dawson


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