The Intersection Among Torts, Science, Corporate Law, Insurance & Bankruptcy

Ancient Product Liability and/or Prehistoric Risk Assessment? “Scientists recreate Californian Indian water bottles to study ancient exposure to chemicals”

Posted in Science

A recent article caught my eye as it in some ways bridges older and newer lines of thinking and living.  The article describes current researchers testing an old Indian bottle making process for risks related to the use of bitumen. The article is summarized in a June 23, article at Science Daily. The introduction explains the points; note that the scientific paper is open access. The paper is titled: “Ancient water bottle use and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) exposure among California Indians: a prehistoric health risk assessment.”

“Water bottles replicated in the traditional method used by Native Californian Indians reveal that the manufacturing process may have been detrimental to the health of these people. The study is published this week in the open access journal Environmental Health.

The researchers wanted to know if bitumen — a material derived from petroleum — could have had an impact on the health of ancient Californian Indians. Bitumen consists of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are associated with a range of health problems including cancer, hormone imbalance, organ damage and developmental impairments. Modern humans are commonly exposed to PAHs through burning of fossil fuels, food processing and tobacco smoking.

Archaeological evidence and ethnohistorical records show that bitumen was used by Native Californian Indians for a variety of purposes including as a sealant for water containers, fixing arrowheads, and as a material for producing smoke signals. Ancient skeletal remains show that Native Californians suffered a health decline over time, but bitumen use as a health risk factor has not been explored until now.”

Sabrina B. Sholts, Kevin Smith, Cecilia Wallin, Trifa M. Ahmed, Sebastian K. T. S. Wärmländer. Ancient water bottle use and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) exposure among California Indians: a prehistoric health risk assessment. Environmental Health, 2017; 16 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s12940-017-0261-1

BMS is Out; Personal Jurisdiction Narrowed for “Mass Tort” Cases

Posted in Jurisdiction, Litigation Industry, Mass Tort Issues

As expected, SCOTUS used the BMS case to narrow the rules for the assertion of personal jurisdiction against a defendant.  Bexis provided the short version summary in a June 19, 2017 post at Drug & Device blog. Some defendants will be pleased but others are not pleased. Ditto for lawyers, on both sides. Inevitably, this outcome seems likely to lead to more lawsuits in more states. In turn, that may also lead to more use of AI in order to coordinate between actions. Interesting times ahead.

Takata Is Headed for Chapter 11 Due to Exploding Air Bags

Posted in Bankruptcy

It’s been a long time coming, but it appears Takata is now headed for chapter 11 to address the many problems arising from its exploding airbags, as explained in a June 15, 2017 article from Reuters. If the numbers in the article are accurate, this could prove an interesting contrast to the typical “mass tort” chapter 11 cases. Why? The major creditors are car manufacturers instead of personal injury claimants.

“Attorney-Client Privilege and Corporate E-Mail: Navigating the Morass of Personal Communications in Investigations”

Posted in Litigation Industry, Privileges

The ubiquity of email and 24/7 work are creating new privilege issues. Some are addressed  an interesting June 9, 2017 JD Supra article by King & Spalding on a recent New York trial court opinion on issues arising from “personal” use of business computers and email accounts.

Manville Trust Transparency – Data from David Austern

Posted in Asbestos, Asbestos Bankruptcy, Cancer

In the good old days, there was more asbestos trust transparency as to overall statistics for the Manville Trust. One reason for the transparency was presentations by David Austern at asbestos litigation conferences. As an example, consider this detailed set of data showing claims by disease for the “pre-1995 period” up through 2001.  The data was presented at the 2002 Mealey’s Asbestos Bankruptcy Conference.

An Anti-Asbestos View of Prior Efforts to “Ban Asbestos”

Posted in Asbestos, Litigation Industry

With new events ahead as to whether/how to “ban” asbestos, it’s interesting to look back at other efforts on the same topic. To that end, consider this October 18, 2011 article by Laurie Kazan-Allen that provides an anti-asbestos perspective. Through a group known as the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, Laurie has spent many years working to obtain “bans” on asbestos in many countries around the world, while also organizing victim’s rights groups. Her brother is Steve Kazan, who does plaintiff’s work in asbestos cases.

Courts and Work Product Protection after Investigation of Cyber Hacks

Posted in Cyber security, Litigation Industry

What are courts saying about work product protection for reports on cyber hacks when the investigation was undertaken by a business hired by a law firm and class action plaintiffs are seeking access to the report? At least three courts have mainly sustained privilege claims, according to an interesting June 5, 2017 article by Shook Hardy, which is published at JD Supra. 

SCOTUS Once Again Hammers the Federal Circuit (the Patent Court)

Posted in Litigation Industry, Policy Issues

This week brought another lesson in the importance of looking at big picture principles instead of focusing only at the micro level. The lesson arose because SCOTUS once again knocked down a “patent friendly” ruling from the Federal Circuit when the patent law principle at issue had big picture implications for the economy and for certainty. The ruling arose in the context of efforts by OEM/patent holders to use patent rights as the basis for suing third-parties who do things to a product (e.g. repair shops; ink cartridge re-fillers). Perhaps the Federal Circuit does well in resolving arcane patent, but it keeps getting hammered by SCOTUS when it seeks to broadly apply patent law claims to events that are of notable concern to others in the economy.  The current ruling is based on big picture principles rather than narrow “patent think;” the story is told in a June 1, 2017 article at Wired. The same thing happened when the Federal Circuit approved efforts to patent genes; prior posts on this blog (e.g. here and here) describe SCOTUS reversing based on big picture principles.