Category Archives: Court Decisions

The Reptile’s In Our Midst – Defending against the “Triune Brain” trial strategy

swordshield

As you’ve surely heard by now, the plaintiffs’ bar has come up with a can’t-miss-science-based trial strategy. Its creators boast that it has produced over $6.25 billion in jury verdicts and settlements in personal injury suits since 2009, including nearly $19.2 million in the past week alone. And they’ve given their strategy a name; it’s called: The “Reptile Theory.” While there are many who dispute its claimed scientific basis (hereherehere), defendants who’ve squared-off with the Reptile don’t doubt its effectiveness. Continue reading

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Whirlpool comes out smelling like a rose

whirlpool logo

Yesterday, a federal jury in Cleveland ruled for Whirlpool Corp. in a warranty-based class action involving allegedly defective front-loading washing machines. As discussed in an earlier post, the case had been up and down to the Supreme Court, and given the Court’s recent class action rulings, that was it was allowed to proceed to trial was rather unexpected. Continue reading

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The Door is Open for Class Action Lawsuits against Manufacturers

law and money

Recent federal court decisions relaxing the standards for class action certification must have plaintiff class action lawyers around the country celebrating. It now seems that a mere handful of customer complaints can support a class action lawsuit on any consumer product. What should manufacturers do to address this development and resulting increase in liability exposure? Should they spend more money up front to resolve warranty claims, before they end up in suit? Or, should they fight it out in court and hope to curtail the recent trend? Either way, we suspect manufacturers’ costs are going up. Continue reading

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Plain language to the rescue?

Knights in shining armour

Imagine if you will, you are the founder and CEO of ABC, Co., a small to midsize company that’s been sued for millions of dollars in a breach of contract action. Next imagine that, just before sending the jury out to deliberate, you heard the judge say to them:  “It is up to you to decide what ABC, Co.’s obligations were under the contract.”  Feeling queasy? Well, here’s the kicker:  your company wrote the contract.

Recently, a scenario just like this one played itself out in a Chicago courtroom. How’d it turn out, you ask? Read on. Continue reading

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Case Note: Court puts the brakes on implied warranty claims

brake rotor

“Merchantability” is one of those legal terms-of-art that defies precise definition. Courts ruling on implied warranty of merchantability claims generally frame the question as whether the product was “reasonably fit for its intended purpose.” But what any given jury will find to be “reasonable” is anyone’s guess. So better for the defendant that the case never get to the jury. I think Chrysler might agree. Continue reading

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Three cheers for plain language

fireworks

Commenting on An Orwellian approach to legal writing, 3 readers share insights and experiences recommending plain language. Here’s a sampling of what they have to say:

“My crime briefs ‘read like a thriller,’” says Bapoo M. Malcolm, Advocate, Bombay High Court, India.

“Practice has shown that people appreciate simplicity & clarity in comprehension compared to more technical writing (jargons & all),” observes Janice Isu, Acting Principal Legal Officer, Office of the State Solicitor, Dept. of Justice & Attorney General, Papua New Guinea.

“A company can’t hide behind fine print written in legalese. Judges rule for the average person,” declares Paul Eveleigh, a copywriter from Melbourne, Australia.

There’s more. Continue reading

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Plain and simple

easy maze
Want a better relationship with your customers? Want to spend less time and money dealing with frustrated or irate customers? Want more customers to walk out of the store with your extended warranty or service plan? There’s a sure fire way to make these things happen, plain and simple. Continue reading

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Debating Warranty Arbitration

debate

Robert J. Cloburn, CAIB, of Vancouver and Gregory Smith of Dark Room Perfection shared their views on a recent post, Arbitration wins another court battle. Here, I offer a few follow up thoughts. Continue reading

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Arbitration wins another court battle

court houseIt is quickly moving beyond dispute that federal consumer protection law favors binding arbitration over litigation. A North Carolina federal trial court recently joined two federal appellate courts in ruling that the federal warranty law, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, does not ban binding arbitration provisions in consumer product warranties. This is good news for consumer product manufacturers, and better news for consumers if more companies turn to binding arbitration.

But still, auto, boat and RV companies, primary targets under the MMWA, shy away from going the arbitration route. Let’s hope this changes. Continue reading

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Reptile Theory: Lipstick on a lizard

Lipstick
Is the “Reptile Theory” now slithering through civil trial courts across the U.S. truly a product of science or something else? Its critics view it as lipstick on a lizard. Its creators promote it as a can’t miss scientifically based trial strategy for obtaining huge jury awards and settlements in civil litigation. Think of it what you will, but if you are likely to ever be a defendant in a civil trial, don’t ignore it. Continue reading

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