Two partners from Schiff Hardin LLP’s Product Liability & Mass Torts Practice Group spoke about the future of mass tort litigation in the United States at the Lloyd’s Old Library in London on October 20, 2015.  Paul A. Scrudato and Edward Casmere discussed the state of mass tort litigation and its future with a group of London-based insurance professionals in the historic Old Library at Lloyds on Lime Street in London.  The topics included nanotechnology, pharmaceuticals and medical devices, e-cigarettes, wearable technology, and fracking.

Continue Reading Schiff Hardin Partners Present on the Future of Mass Tort Litigation at Lloyd’s Old Library in London

A recently published study finds that hydraulic fracturing (fracking) activity triggered numerous earthquakes in Ohio in March 2014.  According to the study, published online this month by The Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America (BSSA), the fracking activities did not create a new fault, but rather activated a fault that was previously unknown.  The study, “Earthquakes Induced by Hydraulic Fracturing in Poland Township, Ohio” was authored by Robert J. Skoumal, Michael R. Brudzinski, and Brian S. Currie affiliated with Miami University of Ohio. 
Continue Reading Study Suggests Fracking Activity Induced Earthquakes

CrossFit, the widely popular fitness methodology, has a noise problem.  Each day, loyal CrossFitters flock to their local gym, or “box,” for the workout of the day (WOD).  In line with CrossFit’s philosophy of constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity, these WODs often involve high repetitions of pull-ups, kettlebell swings, box jumps and barbell movements, such as squats, presses and Olympic lifts.  Couple that with WOD formats requiring as many repetitions as possible in a certain time, or a certain amount of repetitions as quickly as possible, and the result is a measurable level of performance.  While the CrossFit community is united by its dedication to the program, neighbors to local boxes are not as appreciative of the cacophony of sounds that accompany the WODs.
Continue Reading Boxing Your Ears: CrossFit’s Noise Conundrum

Driverless cars could soon become a reality on our streets and highways. The technology for autonomous vehicles is developing quickly and states are beginning to enact regulation in anticipation of the arrival of driverless cars. Several major companies are developing prototype autonomous vehicles including General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, Google, Audi AG, Toyota Motor Company and Oxford University. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has estimated that up to 75 percent of all vehicles will be autonomous by 2040.

But, in the last year, various news sources have reported that fear of increased liability may limit the roll out of driverless cars. As the Wall Street Journal explained, when there is no driver, the possible targets of a lawsuit expands to the company that designed the technology, the car’s owner, the passenger who failed to intervene, or the auto maker, to name a few. U-T San Diego reported that some experts believe the issue of liability, if not solved, could delay or even prevent the widespread use of driverless cars.
Continue Reading Driverless Cars and State Regulations: On The Road to Liability

Conducted as part of the National Energy Technology Laboratory research for the Department of Energy, a new study has encouraging findings regarding the impact of hydraulic fracturing.  The study, conducted during hydraulic fracturing of wells in southwestern Pennsylvania, found no detectable migration of gas or aqueous fluids, and that the impact of hydraulic fracturing on the rock mass did not extend to the Upper Devonian/Lower Mississippian gas field during or after hydraulic fracturing.
Continue Reading Fracking Study Finds No Detectable Gas or Fluid Migration

A Yale-led study suggests that natural gas drilling activities could be associated with increased reports of dermal and upper respiratory symptoms in nearby communities.  The study, “Proximity to Natural Gas Wells and Reported Health Status: Results of a Household Survey in Washington County, Pennsylvania,” was published in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Researchers affiliated with Yale University, University of Washington, and Colorado State University conducted a health symptom survey of 492 persons in 180 randomly selected households with ground-fed water wells in southwestern Pennsylvania’s Washington County.  The county was, at the time of the survey, home to 624 active natural gas wells.  The survey sought information regarding dermal, respiratory, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and neurological symptoms.  Respondents also answered questions about environmental hazards in the community, air quality, water quality, soil quality and environmental noise, odor, and traffic concerns.
Continue Reading Hydraulic Fracturing May Be Pathway to Future Mass Tort Liability

According to a new study, hydrocarbon gas contamination in drinking water close to hydraulic fracturing activity is likely caused by breaches of well integrity from casing or cementing issues, and not from upward migration of gas from deep formations.  A study by researchers from five different universities, and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, found that fugitive gas contamination is most likely associated with casing or cementing issues that compromise well integrity.  “[O]ur data do not suggest that horizontal drilling or hydraulic fracturing has provided a conduit to connect deep Marcellus or Barnett Formations directly to surface aquifers.”  The study, titled “Noble gases identify the mechanisms of fugitive gas contamination in drinking-wells overlying the Marcellus and Barnett Shales,” was conducted by researchers from Duke University, The Ohio State University, Stanford University, Dartmouth College, and University of Rochester.

The researchers used noble gas and hydrocarbon tracers to distinguish between natural and anthropogenic sources of methane contamination and aimed to study two issues: (a) are elevated levels of hydrocarbon gas in dinking water aquifers near gas wells the result of natural or anthropogenic sources, and (b) if fugitive gas contamination exists, what mechanisms cause it.  Analyzing 113 samples of drinking-water wells overlying the Marcellus Shale, and 20 samples overlying the Barnett Shale, the researchers identified eight discrete clusters of fugitive gas contamination (seven in Pennsylvania and one in Texas).
Continue Reading Hydraulic Fracturing And Drinking Water

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) issued a final rule requiring vehicle manufacturers to install rear view cameras in all vehicles by May 1, 2018.  Will this new rule lead to new avenues of litigation risk and potential liability for vehicle manufacturers?  If past history is a guide, the answer may well be yes.

This new rule, announced on April 7, 2014, applies to all vehicles under 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight, excluding motorcycles and trailers.   NHTSA established a 48-month phase-in period for manufacturers to equip vehicles with rear view cameras.  The phase-in period runs from May 1, 2016 to May 1, 2018.  The rear view cameras must have a 10-foot by 20-foot field of view directly behind the vehicle.  Small volume and multi-stage vehicle manufacturers are excluded from the phase-in but must comply with all requirements by May 1, 2018.
Continue Reading Rear-View Liability: NHTSA Issues New Rule Requiring Rear Visibility Technology