Trial Lawyers Archives

In Black and White, Toyota Hysteria Exemplified (Forbes.com)

By Michael Fumento

It's not "live!" It's not even "In color!" And there's no sound. But it's quite stunning.

A surveillance video posted by Fox Chicago News Online shows a 2006 Toyota Corolla backing out of a parking space and striking a car. The Corolla then shoots forward and slams into another vehicle, knocking it aside. Next the car swerves, presumably in an effort to avoid a strip mall, and crashes into a brick wall. The driver, Leon Przybylowski, died of his injuries later that day.

Artist's conception of media view of all Toyotas

As I write in my new Forbes.com piece, "In Black and White, the Toyota Hysteria Exemplified," the family is now suing Toyota. They insist the video supports their claim that Przybylowski, as the newscaster put it, was "yet another victim of sudden unintended acceleration." Their lawyer says it was another victim of "across the board" and "systematic failure" on the part of Toyota. Both, huh?


    Actually, the incident is almost a perfect example of why Toyota SUA accidents really happen, comprising as it does:

  • Elderly drivers
  • Parking lots
  • A sensationalist media
  • Trial lawyers
  • Misconceptions about how cars work generally and throttles and brakes specifically
  • Ignorance, willful or otherwise, of solid data and substitution with presumptions, unwarranted allegations, and emotion

Oh, and gremlins.

There’s no systematic failure with Toyotas. Prior to the hysteria outbreak, only three sudden acceleration complaints were filed with NHTSA regarding 380,000 Toyota Corollas model year 2006. Rather that failure has been that of the media in utterly failing to convey the importance of the above factors.

November 19, 2010 08:48 AM  ·  Permalink

Supreme Court Case May Wipe Out Vaccine Industry

By Michael Fumento

Back when Congress knew how to pass good legislation, in this case in the mid-1980s, it took most cases involving vaccine liability out of the normal court system and put them in a special vaccine court where science and medicine would rule instead of the whims of scientifically and medically ignorant juries.

That's because vaccine companies were going the way of the woolly mammoth, in part because it's just not a very profitable business and in great part because they were awash in over $3.5 billion of lawsuits claiming little more than the post hoc fallacy of "Before the person was vaccinated her or she was fine and since the vaccination he or she became sick." Seriously.

If certain people in black robes make the wrong decision, this guy in a black robe will need to be paid overtime.

Even as it dramatically cut spurious claims, it helped persons who really had suffered from adverse reactions both by cutting litigation costs and by taking them outside of "roulette wheel" justice wherein a case might net a reward of millions while a virtually identical one would be rejected entirely.

But as I write at Forbes.com, this system itself is now endangered by a Supreme Court case in which the plaintiffs are claiming that having lost their case in Vaccine Court that rather than appeal within that system they should be able to try the case in state or federal court. And Congress did allow for some such exceptions.

But no, not this one. It's very clear from the history of what led up to the statute that Congress did not want cases such as these to bypass the system. Why? In part as one court found, it could to a great extent destroy that very system. I provide other arguments. If we lose this system many, many children will not get their vaccines until something else is instituted. And many will die.

October 27, 2010 10:53 AM  ·  Permalink

John Edwards vs. Babies and Moms

By Michael Fumento

John Edwards, being neither a woman nor a racial minority, isn't doing especially well in his campaign to become his party's candidate for president. Alas for him, if he were half as successful in campaigning for America's top job as he was as a trial lawyer, he might be sworn in tomorrow. As I report in The American Spectator Online, Edwards won at least 94 cases, according to Lawyers Weekly, of which 54 netted more than $1 million each. Normally attorneys take a 40 percent cut of cases that go to trial. In his last year as a practicing attorney, 1997, he reported an adjusted gross income of $11.4 million.

Of course, perhaps he deserved it - but he didn't. He specialized in a particularly scummy area of malpractice, blaming Ob/gyn doctors for cerebral palsy. In fact, a 2003 study evaluated almost 1,000 life births to see if cerebral palsy or other problems could by affected by type of birth. Conclusion: "Delivery mode (whether vaginal or cesarean delivery) was not associated with any of the outcomes that were evaluated."

Yet malpractice suits against doctors with the misfortune to deliver CP babies has caused their insurance rates to rocket and to engage in "defensive medicine," by resorting to cesarean deliveries when they're actually not needed. Other research has shown that cesareans increase the risk of death and other problems for both mother and child; yet such procedures are skyrocketing. Many cesareans are the mother's preference because of convenience of timing or wanting to avoid the pain of labor; but no mother should be given one because trial lawyers roam the land telling all parents that if you didn't get a perfect baby the doctor must have screwed up.

March 21, 2007 10:12 PM  ·  Permalink