Last month, Wired reported that researchers hacked the dashboard entertainment system of a vehicle being driven on public streets. Once they had access, they used that entry point to remotely control vehicle systems through the onboard diagnostics port. The researchers warned that they could have easily hacked hundreds of thousands of vulnerable vehicles traveling the world’s highways.

After this demonstration, digital security researchers at the University of California at San Diego went a step further. They showed that they could take control of a vehicle’s onboard diagnostics port to activate the wipers, engage the brakes and even disable the brakes at low speed. That feat — remotely disabling brakes — causes significant safety concerns.
Continue Reading What Happens When Hacking Hits the Road?

In its June 30, 2015 opinion, Landra v. New Dominion, LLC, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held that a personal injury tort action alleging that fracking-related activity caused an earthquake that then caused the plaintiff’s injuries can proceed in an Oklahoma district court. The Oklahoma Supreme Court made no factual or legal findings with respect to the merits of the claims of causation, it simply held that the district court has jurisdiction to hear the suit based on the allegations made.

The Landra plaintiff is a resident of Prague, Oklahoma, and her lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages for injuries allegedly proximately caused by the defendants wastewater disposal practices. The plaintiff claims that in November 2011 she was watching television in her living room when a 5.0 magnitude earthquake struck causing rock facing on the two-story fireplace and chimney to fall onto her causing injury to her knees and legs. She claims personal injury damages in excess of $75,000.
Continue Reading Fracking-Related Personal Injury Tort Claim Allowed to Proceed in Oklahoma Court

In Moon v. Rhode, 2015 IL App (3d) 130613, the Illinois Appellate Court announced a bright line rule: a wrongful death action against a physician must be brought within two years of the knowledge of the death, regardless of when the executor learned of an allegedly wrongful cause.  The Court noted that a wrongful death action is created by statute and therefore must be read as written.  The two statutes at issue, the Wrongful Death Act (740 ILCS 180/2) and the statute of limitations for actions against physicians (735 ILCS 5/13-212(a)), both use the date of death as the determinative date for the accrual of a cause of action.  Because the Moon case was a medical malpractice case, the specific statute related to claims brought against hospitals or physicians applied rather than the general two-year statute for personal injuries.
Continue Reading Illinois Court Adopts Bright Line Rule for Statute of Limitations in Wrongful Death Suit

Are synthetic turf playing fields exposing children to unsafe levels of harmful chemicals putting them at risk of illness and disease?  That is a question that has percolated over the last several years, and one that received high-profile media attention in 2014.  The issue centers around the possible connection between crumb rubber infill – little black pellets of ground up rubber – and potential exposure to chemicals and heavy metals such as mercury, lead, and arsenic.  The rubber provides for a softer surface, but some are questioning whether the chemicals in the crumb rubber cause unsafe exposures to chemicals.

In late 2014 NBC News reported on concerns being raised about the potential health effects of children playing on crumb rubber infilled artificial turf. Other news outlets also published pieces on the subject on in 2014 as well (see here and here).
Continue Reading Groups Debate the Health Effects of Crumb Rubber Infill for Artificial Turf

Illinois has joined the growing list of states that have opted to reduce the size of civil juries.  Last Friday, Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn signed into law an act that reduces the number of jurors in civil trials from 12 to 6.  This new law also increases the compensation paid to jurors for their service.  Public Act 098-1132 will become effective in mid-2015.  In cases filed before June 1, 2015, parties will still be entitled to a jury of 12.
Continue Reading Illinois To Reduce Jury Size

Speculative risk of future injury is not enough to support a class action claim according to a recent decision from the First Circuit. On November 4, 2014, the First Circuit affirmed the United States District Court of Massachusetts’ decision to dismiss a putative class action for lack of standing, finding that the alleged risk of future injury was too speculative to give rise to a case or controversy.

In Kerin v. Titeflex Corp., the named plaintiff alleged that corrugated stainless steel natural gas tubing manufactured by the defendant and built-in to residential homes was vulnerable to puncture in the event of a nearby lightning strike, which could instigate a natural gas-fueled fire.  The putative class action asserted design defect, manufacturing defect, and failure to warn claims against the manufacturer, seeking damages of overpayment for a defective product and the cost of replacing the tubing with a safer alternative.
Continue Reading First Circuit Deals a Blow to Speculative Risk Class Actions

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

When determining damages, juries are often presented with medical billing records as well as expert testimony about the need for — and cost of — various past and future medical treatments.  In Ochoa v. Dorado, (2014) 228 Cal. App. 4th 120, the Second District Court of Appeal in California held that evidence of unpaid medical bills cannot support an award of damages for past medical expenses.  The Court describes this holding as the necessary conclusion to draw from cases such as Howell v. Hamilton Meats & Provisions, Inc., (2011) 52 Cal. 4th 541 (finding the full amount billed by medical providers is not an accurate measure of the value of the services provided), and Corenbaum v. Lampkin, (2013) 215 Cal. App. 4th 1308 (holding the full amount billed for a plaintiff’s medical care is not relevant to the determination of damages for past or future medical expenses, and therefore is inadmissible, if the plaintiff’s medical providers have agreed to accept a lesser amount as full payment for the services provided).
Continue Reading California Court: Unpaid Medical Bills Cannot Support Award of Damages