About: David Goguen

David Goguen is a legal editor at Nolo, focusing on claimants' rights in personal injury cases. He is a member of the California State Bar with over a decade of experience in litigation and legal publishing. David is a graduate of the University of San Francisco School of Law.

Recent Posts by David Goguen

And the Award for Most-Recalled Vehicle of 2014 Goes to….

There will be no red carpets or teary acceptance speeches, but the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra have driven off with the Most Recalled Vehicle of 2014 award, according to CNN. The popular pickup trucks have been recalled six times so far in 2014. And with the leaves still on the trees, there’s plenty of time to pad the record.

The various equipment and safety issues that have spurred the recalls include steering problems, and floor mats that won’t stay put. Some recalls have affected just a few hundred vehicles. But as the CNNMoney article points out: “[J]ust because a recall is small doesn’t mean it isn’t serious. The steering problem flagged in May was so serious that GM called owners, sent overnight letters and used the OnStar in-vehicle communication system to warn them to stop driving the pickups immediately.”

Why would GM go to such extremes? When a vehicle recall is initiated, whether by the manufacturer or by a federal safety agency such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), federal law requires the manufacturer to take a number of steps to let vehicle owners know about the recall — including filing a public report, searching for affected owners, and sending out notification letters. Learn more about Vehicle Safety Recalls.

Want to know whether your vehicle, child safety seat, or other equipment has been the subject of a recall or safety alert? Check out the NHTSA Safety Database to do a little online research.

Stadium Security Lax in L.A.; Dodgers Liable for Fan Beating

A Los Angeles jury has returned an $18 million verdict in a civil case against the Los Angeles Dodgers and two men over the beating of a San Francisco Giants fan in the Dodger Stadium parking lot back in 2011.

Bryan Stow, a 45 year-old former paramedic from Santa Cruz, attended a Dodgers-Giants game on the night of March 31, 2011. Stow, who was wearing Giants gear, was attacked in the parking lot after the game. He suffered head injuries and was left with permanent brain injuries and lifelong physical disabilities.

The case against the Dodgers rested on allegations that the team didn’t do enough to provide adequate security in and around the stadium on the night of the assault. The jury heard testimony on under-staffed security and poor lighting around the facility, and after nine days of deliberations they agreed (by a 9 to 3 vote) with plaintiffs’ attorneys that the team was negligent and should be on the financial hook for some of the costs of Stow’s ongoing medical care and other losses.

Stow’s assailants, Louie Sanchez and Marvin Norwood, were convicted of criminal assault earlier this year. As part of yesterday’s verdict, the civil jury found the two of them liable, along with the team.

The jury determined that the Dodgers organization was only 25 percent liable for the harm suffered by Snow, but the team will be on the hook for $13.9 million of the $18 million verdict. Why the discrepancy between the fault finding and the dollar amount? It’s a good question, and the Los Angeles Times has the answer: Under California law, regardless of the fault apportionment, the team is responsible for the entirety of Stow’s compensatory damages, meaning his medical bills and lost earnings. But when it comes to non-compensatory damages like pain and suffering, the team is only required to pay its share (a quarter of the more than $5 million that jurors said Stow is entitled to).

Learn more about How Damages Work in a Personal Injury Case.

Airplane Turbulence Injuries: Liability is Up in the Air

Five people had to be hospitalized on Monday after their United Airlines flight encountered some rough turbulence on the flight path between Denver and Billings, Montana. (Get the full story from The Denver Post.)

While a particularly bumpy flight can lead to rows full of white knuckles and muttered prayers, the fact is that actual injuries caused by turbulence are pretty rare.  According to the Federal Aviation Administration, every year around 58 people in the U.S. are injured by turbulence on a commercial flight. Over an almost-20 year period (from 1980 through 2008), 298 airline passengers and flight attendants were seriously injured in a turbulence-related incident, and three people died.

But what if you are injured on a turbulent flight? It’s possible that the airline could be held legally responsible for your injuries, especially since airlines are considered “common carriers” and the law imposes a heightened duty of care on them. That means airlines must use the vigilance of a very cautious person in order to protect passengers from potential harm.

That heightened standard of care doesn’t guarantee that you will have an easy time proving your case, however. It’s not enough to show that your flight experienced turbulence and that you were injured as a result. You also need to prove that the airline or one of its employees was somehow negligent in connection with the incident.

So, did the captain and the flight crew take reasonable steps to avoid the turbulence and follow proper protocol for warning passengers — ordering everyone to return to their seats and fasten their seat belts, for example? Was the flight understaffed? You could also have a valid claim against the manufacturer of a seatbelt or other piece of equipment if it was defective or otherwise did not perform properly, and that played a role in your injury.

On the other side of the causation coin, if the plane’s captain warned passengers to stay in their seats with their seatbelts fastened because the aircraft was entering a particularly rough stretch of turbulent air, and you decided to stretch your legs in the aisle anyway, the airline is likely to argue that you share most or all of the blame for your own injuries.

For everything you need to know about these kinds of cases, check out Nolo’s popular article Airplane Turbulence and In-Flight Injuries.

It’s a Super Bowl Party! Who Brought the Lawsuit?

What’s more American than twelve-minute renditions of the National Anthem and sexually suggestive potato chip commercials? Lawsuits, that’s what.

Maybe your Seahawks fan buddy has an awesome recipe for German potato salad that involves leaving the dish in the trunk of his car for 24 hours. Perhaps that weird friend of a friend in the Peyton Manning jersey keeps doing a shot of Jagermeister every time number 18 calls “Omaha!” at the line of scrimmage.

With the Super Bowl only a few days away, before you open your home to friends and family (and show off your new billboard-sized flat screen for the big game), remember that you could also be opening yourself up to legal liability. If, for example:

  • someone is injured on your property
  • someone comes down with a bad case of food poisoning because of something they ate while they were at your party (whether you made the food or not), or
  • someone has too much to drink before they leave your place, they get behind the wheel, and they end up getting into a drunk driving accident.

The specifics of your potential liability as a homeowner depend on the laws that are in place in your state. And whether or not you’re sufficiently protected in case of a lawsuit depends on the coverage details you can find in your homeowner’s insurance policy.

All of this good advice is brought to you by the party poopers fine folks over at Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, Inc. Check out their Super Bowl Party Playbook for all the details.

FDA Lets Avandia Up Off the Mat

Harsh sales restrictions on the once-popular diabetes medication Avandia have been lifted by the FDA. Use of the drug will no longer be limited to certain patients, and new labeling will be pretty much in-line with other prescription diabetes meds. Maybe you’re reading this and asking yourself, “Hey, isn’t the FDA sort of doing a complete 180 on Avandia?” Not a bad question.

The restrictions have been in place since 2010, when, on the heels of a study that linked Avandia use to an increase in heart problems, the FDA ordered that Avandia only be prescribed to certain diabetes patients whose condition could not be adequately controlled with any other medication.

The FDA wasn’t done with Avandia in 2010. The following year, the agency announced that the drug would no longer be available through retail pharmacies, and that only a very limited number of patients would still be able to receive it. Those patients needed to be enrolled in a special program before receiving Avandia via mail order, from specially-certified pharmacies.

So, why the regulatory change of heart now? A recent clinical trial suggested that Avandia use actually comes with no elevated risk of heart attack or death when compared with other diabetes drugs. Not that the new study was without controversy — check out this Wall Street Journal article featuring a few barbs from critics of the trial and the way it was carried out.

It sounds like Avandia’s new labeling will be pretty standard, according to the FDA announcement: “The FDA anticipates that the new indication will state that the drug may be used along with diet and exercise to improve control of blood sugar in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus, an indication similar to other diabetes drugs currently available.”

Learn about Product Liability Claims Involving Pharmaceutical Drugs.

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