Friday, December 11, 2009

Another Lawsuit In Need Of Quashing

Another Lawsuit In Need Of Quashing

Eric Scheie over at
Classical Values points to a lawsuit that is a strong argument for "loser pays" rules:

In a case which I think epitomizes what is wrong with today's tort system, the daughter of a woman killed in an accident caused by a driver talking on a cell phone has sued Samsung (the phone manufacturer) and the wireless provider.
She hopes to prove that the companies should have foreseen the dangers and that they failed to provide adequate warnings.
Legal experts said her lawsuit, currently the only such case and one of only a handful ever filed, faces steep challenges but also raises interesting questions about responsibility for behavior that is a threat to everyone on the road.
"This is a compelling type of legal claim," said Kenneth A. Bamberger, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. "It deals with the widespread use of a product we now know is involved in significant risk and deals with the ultimate question of who should contribute in minimizing the risk."
The lawsuit, filed in October, involves a crash in Oklahoma City on Sept. 3, 2008. Ms. Smith's mother, Linda Doyle, 61, died after her Toyota Rav4 was hit by a Ford pickup driven by Christopher Hill. Mr. Hill, then 20, told the police he was so distracted by a cellphone call that he ran a red light at 45 miles an hour, hitting Ms. Doyle's car as it crossed in front of him.
Mr. Hill was talking on a Samsung UpStage phone on the Sprint Nextel service. Samsung declined to comment. Sprint Nextel said that it "rejects the claims of negligence" in the suit and that it includes safety messages on packaging and user manuals, on its Web site and in its advertising.
I disagree with Professor Bamberger that it is a "compelling claim." I think it is a wholly frivolous claim, but the fact that it is considered compelling by a professor at one of the top law schools in the country illustrates a major problem with the legal system which needs to be addressed.
I agree with Eric (who is a lawyer). How, exactly, could either the phone maker or the carrier have prevented this? Well, they could prevent phones from working while they are in motion...but that would mean that passengers couldn't use them, either.

Perhaps they could have made cellphones that required you to use two hands at once. But that would prevent disabled people from using cellphones--and with some of the incredibly stupid stunts that I have seen people doing while driving--I think the idiots that drive while on the phone would just have no hands on the wheel, instead of one. And you don't want to consider the ergonomics of a phone that required use of a hand and a foot to operate, do you?

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