Do you talk or text while driving? If so, you better check out the status of the law in your state. Here are two links that will give you important information on these laws. And local governments are getting in on the act. For example, this Wednesday Mission, Kansas, begins the process of enacting an ordinance allowing only hands-free phones while driving.

 

 http://www.distraction.gov/content/get-the-facts/state-laws.html

 

http://www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/cellphone_laws.html

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Porsche Puts Out Fires Before they Start

Posted on March 29, 2012 02:01 by Jeff Curran

Porsche AG issued a recall today for 1232 of its 2012 911 Carrera S Coupes, stating that a fuel line could become disconnected due to its proximity to a coolant line.  The result could be fuel leakage, causing the engine to stop or possibly to catch fire.  So why is this important?  Companies issue recalls every day – why should you (or anybody else) care about this one?    

I’ll tell you why.  Porsche issued this BEFORE any fires were caused, property was damaged or lives were even potentially lost.  They just thought it MIGHT happen, and they did something about it before something actually happened.  I just figured more people needed to realize that car companies aren’t  actually the greedy, heartless things they are portrayed to be.  The kicker is that car companies do stuff like this all the time – it’s just that nobody ever pays attention to these because they don’t “sell”.  I realize nobody is going to jump on this nationally, because it’s not “news” in the popular sense.  But the next time you hear somebody deride “Big Auto”, at least think of this.  Granted, there aren’t a lot of cars involved (and yes, they are very, very nice cars), but it really is the thought that counts here.  

And if you want to learn more really interesting stuff about the finer points of Automotive product litigation, come see us at the Automotive SLG Breakout session Wednesday afternoon at the DRI Product Liability Conference in Las Vegas April 11-13.   The best part? It’s 100%  free with your registration – you do not pay one extra dime for the intellectual genius that will be provided. Remember where you heard it, and we’ll see you in Vegas.  

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What Happens in Vegas...

Posted on March 23, 2012 02:21 by Jeff Curran

Actually, it’s what’s happening in Vegas.   It’s spring, and we’re beginning to see a light at the end of the winter tunnel.  Grass is starting to grow, trees are beginning to bud, flowers are blooming, etc.  What better way to celebrate the annual coming of Spring than at DRI’s Product Liability Seminar in Las Vegas?  OK, I confess that Spring and Las Vegas are not “causally connected”, as we DRI-ers like to say.  You can actually go out to Vegas any time of year, and they will welcome you with open arms no matter what the season.  But, what you can’t do just any time of year is go out there and get both the camaraderie of your DRI friends AND the CLE education from leading product liability lawyers and experts from around the country.  So, if you’ll join us April 11-13 at the Venetian for the DRI Product Liability Seminar, you’ll get networking, friends, education, Vegas AND Spring, all at the same time.  You don’t want to be the one who has to hear about it after the fact,  so make plans to join us.  And if you want some really good Automotive CLE, come to the Automotive SLG Breakout session Wednesday afternoon where you’ll hear Neal Walters (the guy who puts the “class” in “class action”) Tracy Ferak (the component part liability guru) and Chris Massenburg (who will tell you all about where the Big Auto companies find themselves economically these days) present some seriously useful stuff.  I’ll see you there – I’ll be the tall guy in the suit.  

 

Jeff Curran is Of Counsel with Gable Gotwals in Oklahoma City. Jeff focuses his practice primarily in the areas of product liability, insurance matters, entertainment law and commercial litigation.


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California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones announced August 19, 2011 that Susana Ragos Chung, 60, a Los Angeles area based attorney has been sentenced in Alameda Superior Court for Insurance Fraud. Chung entered pleas of no contest on two felony counts for violations of Section 549 of the Penal Code, recklessly submitting fraudulent insurance claims. She was sentenced to five years formal probation and to also pay $117,561 in restitution to insurance companies for 15 separate fraudulent claims. In addition, she was ordered to pay $235,123 to the state restitution fund. Chung agreed to place herself on inactive status with the California State Bar pending its mandatory investigation into her criminal conduct, which may result in her disbarment.

In August 2003, the California Department of Insurance (CDI), Benicia Regional Office, Fraud Division, Urban Auto Fraud Task Force initiated an investigation known as "Phantom Menace" into organized automobile insurance fraud in the Bay Area. The Task Force included Investigators from the California Highway Patrol, and Alameda and San Francisco County District Attorney's Offices. As a result of the information and evidence gathered by the Task Force CDI began an undercover investigation in July 2004, which included contacting numerous auto body shops, medical offices and law offices.

Task force members were able to infiltrate a sophisticated auto fraud organized crime ring operating in the Bay Area. This ring was working with law offices in the Los Angeles area. One of these law offices was owned and operated by Chung. In November 2004, task force members acting in undercover capacities were solicited to participate in staged collisions. Numerous collisions were staged and undercover officers were referred to auto body repair shops, medical offices and law offices in an effort to file false automobile insurance claims and secure substantial bodily injury claim settlements.

Between 2003 and 2007, Chung participated in this fraud ring by submitting insurance claims for suspects who staged these collisions for profit. Chung represented the claimants who were allegedly "injured" in these fake collisions. The majority of the people she represented never met her, and many did not even know they had an attorney. Nearly 100 people have been convicted in Alameda County over the last several years as part of this conspiracy, including more than 90 staged collision participants, and three chiropractors. The majority of the participants in these staged collisions readily admitted to law enforcement that no accident had ever occurred.

I understand that California jails are crowded and criminals are being let loose to ease the crowding but running a major fraud ring, in the opinion of ZIFL, requires some real jail time and seizure of the guilty lawyer’s assets. Mr. Jones should not be bragging about this result he should be complaining that the court is being too kind.

 

From Zalma's Insurance Fraud Letter, September 1, 2011 available free at – http://www.zalma.com/ZIFL-CURRENT.htm.

 

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Italian exotic car maker Pagani has encountered a roadblock in its plan to enter the US market.  Acclaimed for its ultra-fast, ultra-powerful, ultra-light, and ultra-exclusive Zonda models which have not been sold in the US, Pagani sought to bring its new Huayra to the single most lucrative supercar market.  The Huayra raises the already stratospheric performance and price points to new heights.  At an estimated $1 million, the 700-hp, 220-mph Huayra competes in the rarefied arena reserved for cars like the Bugatti Veyron and the Lamborghini Reventon.  But NHTSA has refused to grant Pagani an exemption from the advanced airbag requirement in FMVSS 208.  NHTSA sometimes grants such exemptions to automakers who plan to sell only a few cars, and has done so in cases of, for example, some Lamborghini, Tesla, Panoz and Koenigsegg models.  The Huayra would seem to qualify easily under that criterion, since Pagani's limited production capacity allows it to plan to sell no more than 6-12 cars in the US.  But NHTSA was not convinced that Pagani would suffer undue financial hardship by complying with the advanced airbag requirement.  Pagani petitioned for a temporary, two-year exemption to bridge the gap until it produces a fully-compliant Huayra.  NHTSA was not swayed by Pagani's plea that, without the exemption, Pagani would lose 34 million Euros in gross revenues and over 3 million Euros in net revenues, would not be able to enter the US market until 2015, and would be forced to postpone construction of a new factory which is needed to increase the company's production capacity.  NHTSA concluded that the substantial financial hardship threshold was not met because Pagani still projected to earn a profit, although the cost of compliance would result in short-term losses.  Pagani says the Huayra's US debut will be delayed until 2013.

Revealingly, in denying Pagani's petition, NHTSA commented that it would evaluate requests for exemption more critically from now on because the advanced airbag requirement has been in place for more than 10 years (and almost five years for small volume manufacturers).  NHTSA concluded:  "Given the passage of time since the advanced air bag requirements were established and implemented, and in light of the benefits of advanced air bags, NHTSA has determined that it is not in the public interest to continue to grant exemptions from these requirements in the same circumstances and under the same terms as in the past."  NHTSA's decision can be found here. 

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Categories: Automotive | Product Liability | Recalls

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When I read the latest story in the Detroit News about Toyota’s new technology that will help steer a car away from an impact that can’t be avoided, the first thing that popped into my mind was the old advertising phrase “we do the work so you don’t have to!”  (Those of us old enough to remember the ‘scrubbing bubbles’ will chuckle at that).   I was a bit skeptical, and envisioning cars that told me to just sit back, enjoy the ride and leave the driving to them.  But when I read the whole article, I was totally amazed at what they are working on – a system that will steer a car away from an impact (apparently from anything – a person, car, rock, whatever) that in the car’s judgment, cannot be avoided.  Of course a zillion questions come to mind, probably the foremost being, how will the car be able to “judge” what is unavoidable and what is not?  Honestly, I don’t know and probably couldn’t fully understand it even if they were willing to divulge their secrets.  The guess here is that it is a combination of all physical factors – speed, direction, weight of the car, time, what is in front of you, what is around you, etc.  (I do know it involves super-fast and super-sensitive radar, which is pretty cool in itself).  All of this information will have to be processed and a decision made in time for the car to maneuvered appropriately – i.e., tiny fractions of a second.  This is not science fiction either - it is happening right now.  The brilliance of engineers never ceases to amaze me, I’ll be honest.  

If you want to hear more about this and other eye-popping technology that is literally coming soon to a dealership near you, join us at the DRI’s Strictly Automotive Seminar September 15 - 16 at the the Marriott Dearborn Inn in Dearborn, Michigan.  We’re having right in the heart of automobile country, and the list of in-house attendees and speakers is incredible –  in alphabetical order, Chrysler, Delphi, Ford, GM, Kia, Mazda, Nissan, TK (Takata) and Toyota will all be there en masse, as will national counsel for most of these folks, NHTSA people, and a swarm of others.  We’ve got a tour planned of a working manufacturing plant (the Ford Rouge Factory), and speakers on a number of ripped-from-the-headlines auto topics, including the new “smart car” technology, distracted driving,  as well as the behind-the-scenes true story about what’s really going on with Toyota and the alleged sudden acceleration issues and litigation.  In other words, you can’t afford NOT to go!

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Categories: Product Liability | Automotive

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