Tom Appeals Blog

News and Observations About Law and Society

"As long as I have any choice, I will stay only in a country where political liberty, toleration, and equality of all citizens before the law are the rule." - Albert Einstein

Federal Safety Regulation Does Not Block Lawsuit

Posted: February 23, 2011 Filed under: Case Law, Law-Related News

In a surprising opinion from which no justice dissented, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that Mazda may be liable for a death allegedly caused by the absence of a lap and shoulder belt in the rear middle seat of a 1993 minivan.

Giving effect to a statutory savings clause recognizing that lawsuits play a meaningful role in the development of safe products, the Court opened the door to lawsuits when manufacturers fail to use the most effective safety equipment. The Court has generally sided with big business in recent years, and a prior decision had been widely read as suggesting that federal motor vehicle safety regulations preempt or block lawsuits based on alleged defects in the design of safety features that are also the subject of federal regulations. In Williamson v. Mazda Motor of America, Inc., however, the Court said the safety regulation in question established only a minimum standard, not the maximum standard.

The long-term effect the Court’s decision will have on products liability lawsuits is uncertain as outcomes may turn on the specific language and intent of the applicable federal regulations.

ABA Discusses Alternatives to the Billable Hour

Posted: February 15, 2011 Filed under: Commentary, Law-Related News, Uncategorized

Lawyers who prefer the practice of law over the “business of law” have never enjoyed having to account for their days in fractions of tenths or quarters of an hour. Fortunately, leading lawyers have sounded a clarion call and are urging the profession to reevaluate use of the billable hour. This article by the American Bar Association observes, “Relationships are at the core of the way lawyer-client transactions are trending as the billable hour has become a plague for both lawyer and client.” The take away from the story is simply this: Prospective clients desiring terms other than the billable hour should ask their attorneys and law firms to propose alternatives.

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