NTSB’s Final Report on Pedestrian Fatality Involving an Uber AV Highlights Obvious Programming Missteps
On a dark street in Tempe, Arizona just before 10 p.m. on March 18, 2018, an Uber vehicle being tested in autonomous mode hit and killed a pedestrian. This was the first pedestrian fatality involving an autonomous vehicle, and it triggered a media firestorm that caused Uber to suspend its autonomous vehicle program for nine months as it worked with the NTSB to understand the causes of the crash. With the adoption by the NSTB of its final report on the crash on November 19, that work is now complete.
The NTSB’s final report paints a vivid picture of programming and human missteps that belies the argument commonly advanced in legal scholarship about AV liability — that crashes involving AVs will be impossible for the judges, juries, and doctrines that make up our current system of tort law to “understand.” Indeed, the errors that led to the crash were all too simple. Continue reading “Autonomous Vehicle Malfunctions May Not Be So Complicated After All”
Several years ago, the Wisconsin veterinary state convention focused on the legal standard of informed consent in the profession. Lawyers explained that this meant that veterinarians needed to provide all options to owners and that owners make the decision as to what options to pursue. Although this seemed simple enough, and certainly some veterinarians already practiced some degree of informed consent, some veterinarians were understandably concerned about discussing a “no treatment” option and some veterinarians practice in situations where discussions with owners may be difficult (e.g., production medicine) or the time involved would defeat the purpose of their services (e.g., high-volume spay/neuter clinics). But the take-home message was that veterinarians are not the responsible parties for making the decisions for clients and that veterinarians need to provide all of the options, and all of the information that clients need to make decisions. Informed consent protects both parties to the transaction.
Informed consent provides transparency. In the veterinary profession, owners are held directly responsible for the decisions and charges incurred. When an owner is informed about diagnostic or treatment options, this includes the cost involved with the options. Informed consent means discussing what the diagnostics or treatments entail, the prognosis or outcome expected, and the costs involved. In fact, most veterinarians provide written estimates for procedures or hospitalization and may require a deposit. Although this may seem insensitive in some way—to require a deposit to provide care—the estimate can be the reality check an owner may need and, again, the owner client is the responsible party.
Informed consent is also the standard in the human medical profession, but the human medical profession does not provide estimates and doesn’t seem to even know, or admit to knowing, what price tag attaches to options. Much is said about the failures of human medicine. Some of this can be attributed to allowing the profession to not be transparent—to not providing information. Continue reading “Informed Consent”
This semester in Professor Lisa Mazzie’s Advanced Legal Writing: Writing for Law Practice seminar, students are required to write one blog post on a law- or law school-related topic of their choice. Writing blog posts as a lawyer is a great way to practice writing skills, and to do so in a way that allows the writer a little more freedom to showcase his or her own voice, and—eventually for these students—a great way to maintain visibility as a legal professional. Here is one of those blog posts, this one written by 2L Mitch Raasch.
In Products Liability class with Professor Kircher this semester, we often discuss manufacturing and design defects and companies’ requirements in making safe products. Since starting this course, I have often found myself analyzing news stories for potential products liability cases. So, when I read about last week’s tragic incident in which a woman died after an engine in a Southwest Airlines plane exploded, I naturally thought about the potential liability that multiple parties might face.
The Southwest Incident
The Southwest airliner was a twin-engine Boeing 737 travelling from New York to Dallas. One of the windows was struck by debris from a blown engine, causing passenger Jennifer Riordan to get pulled partially out of the opening. She later died from her injuries, and seven others were injured.
The last passenger death on a U.S. commercial flight was in 2009, so the amount of media coverage the incident has garnered comes as no surprise. Nearly all of us have flown commercial, and we expect that each aircraft has gone through in-depth inspections prior to takeoff. But are engine makers and commercial airliners fulfilling their duties under the law?
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said that a preliminary examination of the engine showed evidence of metal fatigue, but that a full investigation will last up to fifteen months. Debris from the engine, which is manufactured by CFM International, should have been prevented from flying out by the engine’s metal cowling.
Yesterday, Fox News ousted Bill O’Reilly, who for two decades was the top-rated host with his show, The O’Reilly Factor. O’Reilly’s blustery on-air persona—which inspired Stephen Colbert to create ultraconservative pundit Stephen Colbert on the Colbert Show—minced no words, ever.
As a result, he often said outrageous, offensive, if not downright inaccurate things on the air. For example, he said that the slaves who built the White House were “well-fed and had decent lodging provided by the government.” He called child hunger “a total lie,” and said that feminists should not be allowed to report on Trump “because Trump is the antithesis of” feminism. He’s also been known to make inappropriate comments to women on the air.
Okay, I admit it. I’m playing Pokémon Go. It’s frustratingly addictive.
For those who don’t know, Pokémon Go is an app for smartphones; the app is free, but players can make in-app purchases. The idea is for each player to “catch” creatures known as Pokémon, which the player does by “throwing” what is called a Pokéball at them. Once you catch the creatures, each of which has its own special powers and abilities, you can “evolve” them into stronger, more powerful creatures and you can go to gyms to “battle” other players.
Pokémon Go uses GPS to figure out where a player is located and presents the player with that “map.” Pokéstops (where players can go to get free goodies they need to play the game) and gyms are represented on the map as actual places, usually public places like parks, sculptures, or churches. To get to a Pokéstop or to battle at a gym, a player needs to physically move herself to that location. For example, the Marquette University campus is full of Pokéstops—e.g., a few sculptures on the southeast side of campus, one of the signs for the Alumni Memorial Union. Dedicated players certainly get some exercise.
Pokémon Go is also interesting because of how it mixes your real-life location with the mythical creatures. When a creature appears, you can take its picture, as if the Pokémon is right there in your real world. (See the pictures in this post.)
But Pokémon Go has been at the root of a number of accidents and incidents and it raises a number of interesting legal issues.
Almost every student who has attended law school in the past 40 years has encountered Ronald Coase and the Coase Theorem. Even professors who disagree with Coase feel compelled to expose their students to his famous theorem, even if only to rebut its argument. As a long-time teacher of both Torts and Property who is not an advocate of law and economics, I cannot imagine teaching either course without references to the Coase Theorem as a way of evaluating the correctness of legal rules.
In a nutshell, Coase, widely acknowledged as the founder of the law and economics movement, posited that in a world without transaction costs, individuals would bargain with each other to achieve the most efficient use of resources, and legal rules would be irrelevant. As a consequence, in a world with transaction costs, Coase seemed to suggest that legal rules should be constructed so that they favor the most efficient user, since that is the party who will eventually end up with the resource . The Coase Theorem was presented to the world in a 1960 article entitled, The Problem of Social Cost, which appeared in the Journal of Law and Economics and is still the most frequently cited law review article in history. Continue reading “Farewell to Ronald H. Coase”
I was inspired to write this post after a lovely conversation with my roommates (for those of you that might not know, by “roomies/roommates” I mean my parents #Living@Home) who were up north skiing over winter break. Essentially, my roomies called me with a very urgent question regarding the law. “Son, it appears they are having us sign a ‘Waiver and Release’ form that is really long, with lots of statements in capital letters that really don’t make any sense. Is there a statute on point that requires companies to use the word NEGLIGENCE in all capital letters over 30,000 times? What do we DO!?!?” asked my confused father. Fresh off my Professor Anzivino contracts exam, I knew exactly how to respond.
“Dad, you guys are in Wisconsin correct?”
“Yes, we are in Wisconsin.”
“Excellent. Dad, Mom, as an aspiring law student, and in order to adhere to the heightened Ethical Code that comes with being a lawyer, please understand I cannot provide any legal advice… but I think you should read the contract and ski away!” Continue reading “Any Chance of Protection?”
Regardless of the level of athletic competition, a coach is not an insurer of an athlete’s safety and is not necessarily liable for injuries that occur while coaching a sport. Although coaches generally are not liable for athlete injuries that are ‘‘part of the game,’’ there is potential legal liability if a coach’s action or inaction increases the inherent risks of injury in a sport. To recover damages for an injury, an athlete is required to prove tortious (i.e., wrongful) action or inaction by a coach caused his injury. This chapter provides an overview of the developing law regarding the nature and scope of a coach’s duty to protect the health and safety of athletes participating in youth and high school sports (who generally are minors entrusted to coaches’ custodial care) or college sports (who generally are adults that do not have a custodial relationship with their coaches) and illustrates a coach’s ethical obligation to do so. It also notes that state statutes and judicial decisions may immunize coaches at public educational institutions from liability for negligence that causes injury to athletes, and that pre-injury releases and waivers may protect both private and public school coaches from liability for their negligence.
The paper will be published as a chapter in Ethics and Coaching (Robert L. Simon ed., Westview 2012).
I first want to take a moment to thank the Marquette Law School Blog editorial faculty for inviting me to be the alumni blogger this month. I have enjoyed the content the MULS blog has offered since its inception, and I am honored to now be a part of it.
I primarily practice in management-side, labor and employment law in Wisconsin, but I have a special interest in how social media interacts with these practice areas. My posts will focus on various ways that social media collides with the law in this respect and others.
As a side note, I not only observe social media but I am a user, too. You can follow me on Twitter @jesse_dill. I typically Tweet about developments dealing with labor and employment law, Milwaukee, and the occasional grumblings about how my favorite teams are not meeting my perfectly reasonable (read: exceedingly high) expectations.
Social media services like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, FourSquare, Instagram, and the like have quickly become the hot topic in my line of work because of their widespread use among employers and employees. Whether an employer wants to utilize a service for recruiting purposes or try to regulate its use by employees in the workplace, a host of fascinating issues arise while attempting to apply old legal theories to these new devices. Continue reading “Here’s My Invite, so Friend Me, Maybe? Changing Notions of Privacy in Social Media”
In what surely must be one of those “truth is stranger than fiction” stories comes the news that two siblings, one 20 and one 23, sued their mother for intentional infliction of emotional distress from “bad mothering.”
In 2009, Steven Miner II and his sister Kathryn Miner sued their mother, Kimberly Garrity, for emotional distress due to her alleged bad parenting and requested $50,000 in damages.
Well, that didn’t take long. In its first week of political life, the new legislature has proposed sweeping “tort reform” legislation. The compass of the 30-plus page bill is manifold, embracing punitive damages, fee shifting, product liability claims, and damages caps. What interests me more, however, are proposed changes to the Wisconsin Rules of Evidence governing expert opinion testimony. For years, some have bemoaned Wisconsin’s failure to adopt the so-called Daubert rule (see below), an often restrictive, ad hoc standard that ostensibly identifies those “reliable” expert methodologies worthy of consideration by the courts. Unreliable methods, of course, are excluded. And while courts and commentators still debate how one goes about reliably identifying reliable methodologies, Wisconsin will apparently make up for lost time by not only adopting Daubert, but also go it one better by requiring that expert methodologies be “true” as well as reliable.
True in what sense you ask? Well, it’s unclear, although I concede it has a nice Old Testament ring to it and the idea that courts should use “true” evidence is appealing in all senses of that word. While you’re pondering what “true” might mean (and I still am), let me offer some background. Continue reading “Tort Reform 2011: True Science or Pure Mischief?”
On November 7, 2010, Senator-elect Ron Johnson was a guest on “Up Front with Mike Gousha.” He made a comment that hit the heart of an issue I have often pondered. This past summer, I had the opportunity to clerk for a law firm that handles primarily medical malpractice actions. So, this conversation sparked my interest.
Mr. Johnson referred to “Tort Reform” and the frivolous lawsuits against medical professionals. He said that an estimated $2-3 billion dollars was spent on frivolous suits that have forced doctors to practice “defensive medicine” in Wisconsin. Whether accurate or not that number has raised eyebrows.
The healthcare crisis facing our nation seems to be the driving forces behind the particular interest in frivolous (or at the least possibly frivolous) medical malpractice actions.
What is tort reform? Generally, tort reform seeks to limit the costs associated with medical malpractice claims by adopting statutory or other regulatory law to limit civil liability. Continue reading “Reform?”