Ford Recalls 1.9 Million Vehicles Affected by Takata Airbag Defect
Posted June 14, 2016
In what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has called “the largest and most complex safety recall in U.S. history,” Ford Motor Company has doubled the number of vehicles it is recalling due to the Takata airbag defect. The company joined 13 other automakers compelled to recall their vehicles. The American manufacturer has now recalled 1.9 million vehicles to replace airbags located on both the driver and passenger sides of the vehicles because they present the risk of deploying explosively and causing serious injury, or even death. Including those made by other manufacturers, the number of vehicles affected are now estimated to be 34 million in the United States, and another 7 million around the world.
The problem is found in the airbag’s inflator. This metal cartridge is designed to work with propellant wafers that are intended to inflate the airbags in the case of a crash. However, because they contain ammonium nitrate-based propellant without a chemical drying agent, there is a risk of activation causing explosive force. When this happens, the inflator housing can rupture and send shrapnel flying into the passenger cabin, causing injury or death to the automobile occupants. Although the Ford Motor Company has not yet reported any such events, there have already been ten deaths reported in the United States as a result of the defect, and more than 100 injuries. It has been estimated that the recall could result in the replacement of nearly 78 million airbag between now and the year 2019.
The original list of vehicles that Ford had recalled included more than 600,000 Mustangs and about 400 GTs. The list has been updated to include Ford Edge and Lincoln MKS models from the years 2007 through 2010; Ford Mustangs from 2005 through 2011; Ford GTs from 2005 and 2006; Ford Rangers from 2007 through 2011; and Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan, Lincoln MKZ and Lincoln Zephyrs from 2006 through 2011. The other manufacturers that have also recalled vehicles include Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar Land Rover, General Motors, BMW, Toyota, Subaru, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Mazda, Fiat Chrysler, Ferrari, Honda, and Volkswagen. Ford has indicated that it will be contacting owners of those vehicles affected to make arrangements for the defective products to be replaced at no cost.
Injuries that have resulted from the defective airbags have been traumatic; in some cases metal shards have flown into drivers’ neck or face. Due to the chemical cause of the propellant explosions, concerns are particularly acute in high humidity areas such as Florida.
If you have been injured by a defective airbag call the personal injury attorney at Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, P.C. at 866.569.3400.
Eisenberg, Rothweiler Appointed to Plaintiffs’ Management Committee for Amtrak Train Derailment MDL
Posted May 27, 2016
On May 24, 2016, the law firm of Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, P.C. was appointed by the Honorable Legrome D. Davis of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to serve on the Plaintiffs’ Management Committee in the In Re: Amtrak Train Derailment Multidistrict Litigation.
The Litigation, stemming from a May 12, 2015 derailment of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia with 253 people on board, currently involves approximately 100 lawsuits and over 125 injured passengers. This Management Committee role entails facilitating communications between and among all of the plaintiffs, Amtrak, and the Court, as well as coordinating a plan to evaluate the respective damages suffered by each plaintiff and to apportion damages from a statutorily awarded cap of $295 million.
Eisenberg Rothweiler is pleased to accept this appointment on behalf of its catastrophically injured clients and scores of others unnecessarily harmed by Amtrak.
For Auto Manufacturers, Safety Should Always Be Job 1
Posted May 26, 2016
Automobile manufacturers put a lot of attention—and a lot of money—into building and protecting their brands. Unfortunately, it sometimes appears that they are far less devoted to the safety of their customers.
Safety must always come first
Many manufacturers are producing day in and day out to meet the needs of consumers, but keeping up with production demand is never an excuse for defective products or a lack of attention to safety. A significant difference within the auto industry, is that a product malfunction can cause catastrophic injury or death. Every time you get behind the wheel of a car, you’re putting trust in that product to get you from point A to point B, and to keep you and your passengers safe.
This past week, approximately 53,000 new models of Subaru vehicles have been immediately recalled. The manufacturer warned drivers not to even risk driving to a mechanic to resolve the issue. All 2016-2017 Legacy or Outback vehicles manufactured between February 29th and May 6th were reported to potentially have a column defect so serious, that the steering could fail at any moment during use.
The Subaru brand has gone so far as to create the consumer impression of a company that puts safety first. Subaru has spent millions on advertising campaigns with safety themes and they even tagline use the tagline,“Confidence in Motion.” The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was made aware of a possible defect after an Outback owner reported “an issue” with the steering. So how does a defect this severe happen, and why isn’t it discovered unless reported by a consumer?
Subaru’s recall announcement may appear to be prompt action taken to protect consumers. Certainly that is what the company would prefer. However, there have been many examples in the past of companies who have hidden or lied about known defects discovered within their products—companies that made no effort to warn the public until it was absolutely necessary; either to save the brand, or avoid criminal prosecution.
The right action is the one that keeps us out of danger in the first place.
We can’t forget that an automobile recall is a measure taken after the fact. Right now, it seems as thought nobody has been injured due to the Subaru steering defect. But how would anyone know? After a terrible car crash due to a steering defect, there may not be anyone from the accident alive to say what failed. There may be so much damage to the vehicle, that not enough of the steering system remains intact to examine. For other drivers who survive, the steering failure could occur so suddenly and be followed by an impact so rapidly, that to them it is unclear exactly what happened. Many people may have already been affected by the Subaru steering defect and don’t even realize it.
A normal first instinct might be to assume that the steering failure was unique to the specific vehicle you are driving, rather than a defect common to a make and model. Or if a driver is lucky and miraculously is not injured in an accident due to an auto defect, perhaps no action is taken other than calling an auto insurance carrier to file a claim.
Sadly and all too often, companies don’t tell the public the truth. The truth can only be obtained by filing lawsuits and holding them accountable for the defects in their cars. Thank goodness not all auto defects share the same risks or result in tragic outcomes, but an auto recall is always in the best interest of the vehicle owners. For those who own an automobile, the difference can be life or death.
Choose a law firm with deep experience in auto defect cases
Major automobile recalls were not issued when they should have been, nor were defects reported before someone was severely injured. If you know of anyone who may have been severely injured as a result of an automobile defect, it is critical to work with a law firm that is experienced in the complexities of auto defects and product liability law. Contact the attorneys at Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, who fight to make sure that victims injured by an automobile defect receive the care and support they need for life.
In automobile manufacturing, a small defect can cause a lifetime of suffering.
Posted May 19, 2016
New advancements in technology and engineering have drastically altered the car buying experience . One of the most common features on every new car buyer’s mind is safety. Despite the unpredictability of some auto accidents, it almost goes without saying that no one would ever expect the features designed to keep you safe could actually be responsible for turning a minor accident into a major tragedy.
With so many innovative features to choose from today, who would think that you need to be concerned about something as simple as an automobile airbag deploying properly? However, for 3.2 million Nissan models recalled in the past year, just the opposite is true. And generally speaking, auto defects are unfortunately more common than you may think. Far too often, these deficiencies only come to light after it’s too late.
Strike three in the Nissan airbag auto recall
This year, Nissan issued its third recall for defects in their airbag sensors since 2013. The cause of the recall for various 2013-2017 models was due to a defective front seat occupancy-classification sensor (OCS), which is responsible for determining whether the occupant of the passenger seat is a child or small adult, in order to disable the airbag and keep it from deploying. “Unusual seating postures” and engine vibration were initially blamed for the system’s inability to recognize seated passengers, but even after an OCS software update, vehicle owners still noticed the passenger airbag would display as deactivated when grown adults were seated.
More than 3,200 complaints and warranty claims for the failed sensors caused The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to open investigations on twelve different models, revealing that nearly 3.2 million cars were affected—including those previously recalled for the same issue. Automobile recalls aren’t always preemptive, but instead are reactionary measures after a serious accident has already occurred.
What’s worse is that too often the resulting injury or death of a driver or passenger is due to a fully cognizant decision by the automobile manufacturer to use a flawed design or product as part of a vehicle’s engineering. Some factors responsible for an automobile accident may be impossible to foresee, but that doesn’t mean that victims of catastrophic injury or death caused by defects aren’t entitled to the necessary care and support required for the rest of their lives.
A fate undeserved: tragedy that could have been prevented
In 2010, one Pennsylvania man became quadriplegic after his 1999 Acura Integra flipped, and his seatbelt failed to prevent his head from striking the roof. This landmark case was handled and tried to a jury by trial attorneys Stewart J. Eisenberg and Daniel J. Sherry Jr., of the Philadelphia catastrophic personal injury law firm Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, P.C. They presented evidence that the accident was caused by an auto design defect, as well as the Honda Motor Company’s failure to use a safer alternative.
Honda denied any faults in their seatbelt design, but attorneys Eisenberg and Sherry were able to uncover that Honda was aware, for more than a decade, of the seatbelt’s inability to prevent a driver from striking his or her head on the roof. The information had been revealed in a 1992 rollover test. Honda attempted no additional testing to resolve the issue, and failed to provide adequate warnings to consumers.
After a nine-day trial in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court of, a jury unanimously reached a verdict that awarded the accident victim $55.3 million to assist with future care expenses, loss of earnings and the pain and suffering that resulted from the vehicle defects. It was the largest recorded verdict for an auto defect case in Pennsylvania history.
Finding recourse after catastrophe
No one expects that the automobile they drive is poorly designed or carelessly manufactured, nor would they likely know when a defect is to blame in an accident. It takes experienced and knowledgeable attorneys such as those at Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, P.C. who will fight to protect your interests and secure your future. Our attorneys work closely with experts in automobile design, , accident reconstruction, biomechanical engineering, and more, so we know what to look for and how to investigate all aspects of a crash.
If you or someone you know has been injured in an automobile accident due to an automobile defect, contact the attorneys at Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler Eisenberg & Jeck, PC today for a free consultation.
Premises Liability: Not Just Your Average Slip And Fall
Posted May 10, 2016
When people hear the term “premises liability”, scenarios such as slip and fall accidents in the grocery store typically come to mind. The customer has a reasonable expectation that the store will not be an unsafe place to do his or her shopping. The storeowner has invited the public in to buy groceries and is responsible for maintaining a reasonably safe environment – free from concealed wet spots and slippery banana peels. But not all cases are as clear-cut.
Premises liability applies to a wide range of cases in which an entrant upon land sustains physical harm due to some dangerous condition on the land. These cases include:
- Dangerous windows
- Unguarded pools
- Falling trees
- Defective roadways
- Open elevator shafts
- Hidden steps
- Unsafe worksites
- Negligent security
Generally speaking, under Pennsylvania law following the Restatement (Second) of Torts, a possessor of land owes a duty of care to those entering the land, and the nature of that duty depends on whether the entrant is a trespasser (unconsented entrant), licensee (permitted visitor – e.g. social guest), or invitee (business visitor). The lowest duty, owed to an adult trespasser, is to avoid willful and wanton misconduct. Next, the possessor may be liable to a licensee for failing to exercise reasonable care where the possessor, not the licensee, has actual or constructive knowledge of a hazard. With invitees, a possessor actually has an affirmative duty to conduct a reasonable inspection of the premises to discover any hazard.
A recent premises liability case in Philadelphia, involving a little girl who sustained a traumatic brain injury when she fell from a third-story bedroom window onto the concrete below, demonstrates that premises liability cases can be complex and involve many parties beyond the premises owner. The three year old girl was with her mom visiting family residing in an affordable housing complex in North Philadelphia. When playing with her cousins in an upper bedroom, she climbed onto a deep window sill from a bunk bed positioned near the window and either fell or was pushed through the open, unguarded window. The child survived the tragedy but required a series of operations for her fractured skull and will continue to require ongoing care for permanent injuries, the full extent of which are still not known.
Investigation into the incident revealed facts which supported a negligence claim against many premises defendants based on their collective failure to protect the window with a fall prevention device (window stop or guard) or, alternatively, move the bedroom door so that the bunk bed could have been positioned on a non-windowed wall:
- The premises was certified for occupancy just months before the incident after undergoing a lengthy renovation project, during which bedroom and other windows were replaced and the bedroom door wall was reframed to accommodate HVAC
- All those involved in the project – owner, developer, project manager, general contractor, subcontractors, superintendent, and architect – knew that young children were occupying the premises including the third floor bedroom
- The premises defendants had actual or constructive knowledge that, given the tight room layout, a bunk bed was positioned in its most logical place in front of the window (where it was always positioned pre-project and where the general contractor positioned it after the project), thereby providing easy window access to the typical curious child, as detailed in numerous industry studies seemingly ignored by the defendants.
With the help of a window safety consultant and architect expert, attorneys Kenneth M. Rohtweiler, Nany J. Winkler and Todd A. Schoenhaus successfully argued that, despite passing inspections, the premises defendants owed a duty to their licensee client to go above and beyond minimum building standards to safeguard the hazardous bedroom window. Shortly before the start of trial, the attorneys were able to settle Plaintiff’s case for over $5.5 million.
“We are extremely pleased to be able to help this little girl and her family and see that she receives the appropriate medical care and ongoing support she will need,” said attorney Todd A. Schoenhaus. “The incredible tragedy here is that a little girl was terribly injured, despite the fact that multiple actors[—property owner, property manager, contractors, construction superintendent, project architect, window supplier and installer—]all had it within their power to see to it that something as simple as a $5 window guard was installed and, instead, did nothing.”
This recent case demonstrates that not all premise liability cases are simple slip and falls. Some can be complex and involve catastrophic injuries jointly caused by many others. If you or a loved one has suffered harm on another’s premises, it is critical to have an experienced premises liability attorney on your side so that the incident can be fully investigated and all those bearing responsibility can be held accountable. Such an attorney can be found at the Law Offices of Eisenberg Rothweiler Winkler Eisenberg & Jeck, P.C. Please call (866) 569-3400 for a FREE initial consultation.
Polaris Off-Highway Recreational Vehicles Recalled Due to Fire Risk
Posted April 26, 2016
A popular Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle sold by Polaris Industries, Inc. is the subject of a recall by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The Polaris Model Year 2013-2016 RZR 900 and RZR 1000 both pose risks of catching fire while being driven. One burn fatality and 19 other injuries have been reported, including first, second, and third-degree burns. The fatality was a 15-year old passenger who was killed when the ROV rolled and caught fire. Polaris is cooperating with the CPSC in the recall, and has voluntarily suspended sales of all recalled vehicles until they have undergone the needed repairs. Owners and riders are being urged to discontinue use of the vehicles immediately due to the serious risk of injury. The company reports that it has received over 160 reports of fires.
The two Polaris models have been extremely popular, and the recall involves approximately 133,000 of the ROVS that have been sold through Polaris dealers between July 2012 and April of 2016. The vehicles, which were manufactured in the United States and Mexico, retailed for $16,000 and $26,000. Owners are urged to check the company’s website and click on “Off-Road Safety Recalls” to determine whether their model is included in the recall, and contact their nearest Polaris dealer, which will provide a free repair.
Recreational Off-Highway Vehicles (ROV) are becoming an increasingly popular choice for those who are seeking an off-road driving experience. Unlike All Terrain Vehicles (ATV) that are straddled by a single rider and which are operated with handlebars, throttles and hand levers for braking, ROVs are much more similar to driving a car. These vehicles feature a steering wheel, a brake and acceleration pedal, and may accommodate up to a driver and one or more passengers. Vehicles are equipped with roll bars and safety belts for both passenger and driver. Operators must have a driver’s license and be a minimum operating age of 16.
Motor Vehicle defects can result in severe permanent injury and death. Those injured by Polaris vehicle defects have sustained serious burns. For motor vehicle defect cases such as this, it is vitally important to contact an experienced law firm that handles complex catastrophic personal injury cases. Philadelphia law firm Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck has the experience. Contact the firm to set up a free consultation: (215) 546-6636.
Attorney Insights: Repeat Offenders of Medical Malpractice
Posted April 19, 2016
In this interview, personal injury attorney Brian Hall offers his professional perspective regarding surprising medical malpractice statistics recently published in a New England Journal of Medicine article: “Prevalence and Characteristics of Physicians Prone to Malpractice Claims”
Q: “Do you think attorneys were surprised by the information in the article?”
A: “I think many of us intuited that it was indeed the case that a small number of physicians are responsible for a disproportionate share of medical malpractice. Not only cases brought, but also claims paid. I think that the value of this article is putting forth some numbers that strongly support that intuition. The article found that 1% of all doctors account for 32% of paid medical malpractice claims. That is huge difference.”
Q: “What’s being done to keep these “repeat offenders” in check?”
A: “I think that there are a couple of checks on it. One is the specter of a malpractice suit, and the other is the difficulty that some doctors might have with getting liability coverage if they have a mounting number of malpractice cases.”
Q: “It doesn’t seem as though this information can be easily obtained, but how can a consumer find out if doctors have had malpractice claims filed against them?”
A: “There are ways of figuring it out, but not always. For example, in Philadelphia, if you want to get a sense of how many times a doctor has been sued, and also to get a sense of how many times the doctor has been sued successfully, you can go onto the Court of Common Pleas website, look for the civil docket search, and then plug in the doctor’s name. This should bring up all of the lawsuits that have been brought against that doctor. It’s one way of getting pretty decent information about whether or not a particular doctor has been sued, and if so, successfully or unsuccessfully.”
Q: “What actions are being taken against doctors who repeatedly commit malpractice?”
A: “All claims, settlements, and all settlement payments made on behalf of doctors are supposed to be reported to the state licensing board. That information should also be shared with the National Practitioners Data Bank. Whether disciplinary action is taken, however, is not public information. Most of what happens in those proceedings is confidential.”
Q: “It seems that hospitals, whether intentionally or intentionally, are shielding doctors in some cases. Do you agree?”
A: “The article mentioned that a number of malpractice claims were excluded from the statistics because a hospital, or other healthcare entity, paid on the doctor’s behalf. I see this fairly frequently in the cases that I handle against doctors or healthcare providers at hospitals. The hospital will step in and settle the case on its own insurance. That shields the doctor from being reporting to the National Practitioner Data Bank. Referring to your question about why more people don’t know about this— it’s because the information in the National Practitioner Data Bank is not readily available. It’s confidential.”
Q: “Changing gears—other statistics regarding physicians and malpractice were also interesting, perhaps even counter-intuitive—age of the physician, for example. ”
A: “Yes. The study found that younger doctors are less likely to have paid a malpractice claim.”
Q: “How is that the case?”
A: “I think it’s fair to say that many of the more difficult medical cases are handled by more experienced doctors. In those difficult cases, there’s a greater potential for mistakes to be catastrophic for the patient. That might account for it.”
Q: “There were also statistics related to practice area or specialty—thoughts?”
A: “What stood out for me is that emergency medicine is, what, 7th down the list? I thought it would be much higher. There’s a state bill pending that would provide greater immunity from lawsuits on behalf of emergency medicine doctors. The argument was that the emergency medicine doctors are often targets of malpractice cases. These numbers tend not to support that.”
Q: “How do the statistics mentioned in the article compare with your personal experience?”
A: “In my experience, I’ve been involved in more lawsuits against emergency medicine doctors than, for example, internal medicine doctors. Yet, internists rank significantly higher in the study than emergency medicine doctors.”
Q: “These types of cases are very expensive to try. Is that primarily due to the cost of expert witnesses?”
A: “Malpractice cases are expensive to bring. They cost a lawyer, typically, tens of thousands of dollars, sometimes more than a hundred thousand dollars, to bring the case to court. In Pennsylvania, we do not have depositions of experts, yet medical malpractice cases still are expensive. In New Jersey and in federal court, there are depositions of experts. That really ramps up the cost of those cases.”
Q: “So what actions do you think might make a positive impact on these troubling statistics?”
A: “One thing I take away from the article is that it makes sense for there to be more oversight, more direct supervision of doctors, in order to cut down on the number of medical negligence cases. The article suggests, among other things, peer counseling, training, and supervision. Those are standard approaches in other industries. They have not been widely adopted inmedicine. I think that these are good suggestions, or at least a start toward the possible improvements.”
Future Leaders – Get Involved Today for Our Tomorrow
Attorney Josh Schwartz is the Chair of the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association Future leaders Section and is excited about the growing involvement of the younger members of the trial bar. The Future Leader Section of the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association includes members who have been practicing for ten years or less, but their involvement in the legislative process on key legal issues of the day will serve the legal profession well for decades to come.
One of the Future Leaders initiatives is “Future Leaders on the Hill” in which Future Leader members will travel to Harrisburg, meet legislators and discuss key topics of interest, such as H.B. 1064. If HB 1064 were to become law, it would essentially shield emergency room doctors (and any medical care professionals providing emergency care in any setting) from liability by increasing the burden of proof to ‘clear and convincing’ and increasing the degree of negligence to ‘gross negligence.’
“The Future Leaders on the Hill is an opportunity for our future leaders to go to Harrisburg, meet with the legislators, sit in on hearings, understand more about the process, and also to generate some face-to-face interaction between some of the young leaders of the organization and the members of the House and Senate in Harrisburg.” said Mr. Schwartz.
In addition to their interest in the legislative process, the group has been working on ways continue to attract new members to the organization and also serve the needs of those that have recently become involved.
“It’s exciting and rewarding,” said Mr. Schwartz. “PTLA is such an extraordinarily important part of the effort to keep the court doors open and available to the public. The Future Leaders Section is the next generation of trial lawyers in Philadelphia and we must make sure that PTLA is just as strong ten years from now as it is today.”
Attorneys who have been in practice for fewer than ten years and are interested in joining the organization should contact: Josh Schwartz at Josh@ERLegal.com.
Distribution of Medical Malpractice Claims
Posted March 29, 2016
A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine sought to better understand the distribution of medical malpractice claims, and postulated that if physicians who are prone to malpractice claims could be reliably identified earlier, the effort to improve the overall quality of care might be advanced.
Large amounts of data from 2005 through 2014 were analyzed covering claims paid against physicians in an effort to calculate risk, identify high-risk characteristics among physicians and quantify risk over time.
Results yielded from the study included the following:
- 1% of the physicians studied accounted for 32% of paid claims
- The fewer number of claims against a physician, the fewer there were likely to be in the future; the more claims against a physician, the higher the risk of additional claims.
- Risk of reoccurrence of claims varied widely by physician specialty
The study concluded that within a recent 10-year span of time, a small number of physicians with specific characteristics accounted for a disproportionately large percentage of paid malpractice claims.
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Amtrak Derailment Injury Data Released
Posted March 21, 2016
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released more detailed injury information regarding the May 2015 Amtrak derailment. The data list classifies the number and type of injuries sustained in the crash based on severity.
Information regarding every individual who received medical treatment for the crash was listed. It includes age, gender, height and weight, as well as specific details about their injuries.
The list provides specific details in regard to the following key information:
- 253 people were aboard the train
- 7 people died of their injuries on the scene; 1 died in emergency at the hospital
- 185 people were injured and taken to 10 area hospitals
- Injuries ranged from abrasions and bruises to severe lacerations, broken bones and damage to internal organs
- The most severe injuries occurred in the first three cars of the train.
This important data will be added to the extensive number of documents being compiled in the investigation to determine exactly what happened and suggest recommendations to improve future safety.
The release of the injury data comes weeks after the announcement that the damages limit has been raised from $200 million to $295 million.
“On the surface, the damages limit seems like a very large number. I’m certain the list of injuries will demonstrate to all that the harm suffered by the victims in these cases will far exceed the cap amount,” said Fredric Eisenberg, partner at the catastrophic personal injury law firm, Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Wisenberg & Jeck, P.C.