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March 2010 Archives

Baby Sling Recall

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), in cooperation with Infantino of San Diego, California, agreed to recall about 1 million "baby slings" sold in the last seven years at stores such as Wal-Mart, Target, Burlington Coat Factory and Babies "R" Us. The "SlingRider" is a soft fabric baby carrier with an added shoulder strap to be worn by the parents and caregivers to carry infants weighing up to 20 pounds. "Infantino" is printed on the plastic slider located on the strap. The product was manufactured in China and Thailand.

More Cost-Cutting by Refineries Extends Danger to Workers

Back in January I wrote about the serious safety concerns that are presented at U.S. oil refineries during times of economic downturn. Since then, things have not only failed to improve, they have become worse. Refiners have continued to experience the worst market conditions for the industry in close to thirty years, and as I pointed out in my January blog post, the result has been a continuous shift in corporate focus to profit survival, pulling vital resources from areas like plant safety programs.

Warning - Infant Slings Are Causing Deaths

On March 24, 2010, over one million infant slings were recalled due to the risk of suffocating the babies. Infantino "SlingRider" and "Wendy Bellisimo" infant slings are reportedly to blame for causing three deaths in infants in 2009. According the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the slings present a high risk of suffocation for infants traveling in the sling that are less than four months old. The Commission cited to a 2009 death of a three-month-old infant in Cincinnati. The CPSC is still investigating to determine the full extent of the damage that these slings have caused to consumers and their infants.

"Consumer Reports Suspends Recommendation of 8 Toyota Models"

As a result of the Toyota recall, Consumer Reports in their April magazine suspended their recommendation of the recalled models until Toyota resolves the problem. Consumer Reports recommends that in the event of sudden acceleration you should brake firmly, but do not pump the pedal. Next, shift the transmission into neutral, steer to a safe location, stop, turn off the engine, and shift into park. If you are considering buying a used car from the recall list, make sure the fix has been performed.

2010 MEXICAN-AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION OF TEXAS LAW STUDENT & LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE

The Mexican-American Bar Association of Texas (MABATx) is excited to hold its annual Law Student & Leadership Conference on Saturday, April 17, 2010 at South Texas College of Law Houston in downtown Houston. bagosto@abrahamwatkins.com, Jr., MABATx Conference Chair is pleased to announce the Law Student & Leadership Conference is an opportunity for law students from all over the great State of Texas to learn practical application as well as legal theory from talented legal minds. Additionally, it is an opportunity for attorneys to offer advice and support to law students, while reminiscing about their law school days. Guest speakers include nationally recognized and accomplished attorneys, as well as, District, Appellate, and Supreme Court Justices of the State of Texas.

Toyota Knew All Along

It has been recently reported that National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigators discussed brake override measures with Toyota back in August of 2007 to address the sudden acceleration defect. Emails and an internal Toyota memorandum were obtained by Congress which show that NHTSA officials discussed brake override software back in 2007 with Toyota Motor Corp. Apparently, the safety regulators suggested that Toyota install brake override software designed to stop the car even if the engine is accelerating. The suggestions to Toyota were prompted by complaints of Toyota and Lexus vehicles racing out of control. The internal Toyota emails also show that Toyota considered the idea and even learned that at least two manufacturers (Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen) were already using brake override at the time, and another (Nissan) had recently announced it would be installing the technology. Ultimately, Toyota did not adopt brake override, either for new models or by recalling any models. Instead, Toyota recalled floor mats in about 55,000 vehicles.

Supreme Court Overturns Verdict

On Friday, March 12, 2010, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the plaintiffs in a motor vehicle fatality case wrongly introduced evidence about a truck driver's status as an "illegal alien," and reversed a verdict against him and his employer. In the opinion of TXI Transportation Company v. Hughes, ___ S.W.3d ___ (Tex. 2010), the Court ruled that the trial court should not have permitted evidence and argument that the defendant truck driver entered the country illegally, had lied to obtain a driver's license and job, had been convicted of an immigration violation, and was previously deported. During the trial, there were more than 40 references to the driver's status. As a result, the Supreme Court reversed the verdict, which exceeded $15 million dollars, and returned the case to the trial court for a new trial.

March 16, 2010 Americanos Bus Crash Leaves 2 Dead and Dozens Injured

An Americanos tour bus crashed this morning south of San Antonio, leaving two people dead and dozens injured. The bus was en route from San Antonio to Matamoros when it rolled over near the Campbellton exit off Interstate 37, about 54 miles south of San Antonio. There were about thirty-five people on the bus when it crashed at 9:45 a.m.

Arbitration Under Fire by Billionaire

Lawyers, including myself, have long complained of the unfairness of the mandatory arbitration process. Touted by many businesses as a better alternative to be jury trial process, those who oppose the mandatory arbitration system generally have a long list of inequities to parade as exhibits to support their arguments. Now, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and his investment company, Vulcan Capital, are jumping on the bandwagon to criticize the mandatory arbitration process. The little guys -- usually a credit card consumer or the mammoth sized company employee -- are ready to applaud the billionaire's decision to remove mandatory arbitration agreements from his Vulcan employee contracts.

METRO BUS - TRAIN COLLIDE

A METRO bus collided with a METRO light rail train in downtown Houston Monday afternoon. At least 19 people had to be taken to the hospital for treatment from resulting injuries.
The derailment happened at around 2:30pm on Main at St. Joseph's Parkway, close to METRO headquarters. Just over a month ago another METRO bus and train collided at the same intersection.
At least 19 patients, including the bus driver, have been taken to area hospitals with mainly neck and back injuries.
The firm has been involved in major bus accident litigation, including the Hurricane Rita Evacuation Bus Fire resulting in 23 fatalities and the New Years Day bus rollover near Victoria, Texas in 2008.

"Texas Supreme Court Rules that Immigration Status Irrelevant & Harmful in Civil Cases"

Texas Supreme Court, it appears that a person's immigration status has no place in a civil case. In TXI Transportation Company v. Randy Hughes, the court held that the driver's illegal status was irrelevant and harmful error and remanded the case back for a new trial. The court went on to say that "appeals to racial and ethnic prejudices, whether 'explicit and brazen' or 'veiled and subtle,' cannot be tolerated because they undermine the very basis of our judicial process. The Supreme Court got this issue correct.

Toyota's Recall for Sticking Gas Pedals is NOT WORKING

New reports are surfacing that the massive recall issued to correct the sticking gas pedal issue in Toyota vehicles is not working. By now, nearly everyone is aware of the reported problems in certain Toyota vehicles where the vehicles are accelerating on their own and out of control. Toyota has issued recalls for the floor mats and the gas pedals, which was supposed to alleviate the sudden acceleration problems. However, there at least 15 cases where Toyota drivers have reported that the sudden acceleration problems are continuing, even after having their vehicles "fixed."

Bus Rollover Accident - Initial Investigation Suggests Driver Error

On Friday, March 5, 2010, a bus carrying passengers from Mexico to Los Angeles was involved in a rollover accident in Arizona killing 6 passengers and injuring 16 others. Initial reports indicate that the bus was operated by Tierra Santa, Inc. based out of Mexico. Before getting into the wreck, the bus had traveled through Texas and its final destination was Los Angeles. While in Arizona the bus struck a pickup truck and then rolled over. Initial investigation seems to suggest that driver error may have been involved in starting the wreck sequence.

Toyota Continues to Receive Acceleration Complaints

Even after Toyota vehicles have been repaired as a result of a massive recall, the government and Toyota are continuing to receive complaints from Toyota drivers who say their cars have sped up by themselves -- even after being fixed. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it is contacting every owner to learn more about their complaints and reports. Owners are encouraged to submit their complaints online or through a NHTSA hotline to assist this investigation. These new complaints call into question Toyota's claim that a fix is available to repair and makes a vehicles. According to some drivers, the fix is no fix at all.

Supreme Court Throws Out Case of 80-Year Old Woman

Last month, the Texas Supreme Court threw out a case brought by an 80-year old woman in poor health, and told her to sue in Illinois. The case arose from the losses the woman sustained in her investment account. She sued her commodities broker and its agent. The Texas trial court overruled the broker's motion to dismiss based upon a forum selection clause permitting it to be sued in Illinois. The Supreme Court granted mandamus, and ordered the trial court to dismiss the case, because the plaintiff "did not overcome the presumption against the [broker's] waiving its right to enforce the forum-selection clause, or satisfy her burden to demonstrate that enforcing the clause would be unreasonable and unjust."

Texas Work Zone Fatalities: Who Is Responsible?

Work zone safety initiatives almost always target the drivers passing through construction areas, warning them to slow down, pay attention and be aware of their surroundings. This is sound advice, but states may be neglecting an even bigger problem.Across the country, nearly 1,000 people die every year in work zones. Over 18 percent of those deaths occur in Texas. While drivers' speeding and lack of attention are certainly contributing factors, are they really the only thing preventing safe work zones?Looking at the safety efforts and highway warnings around construction projects, one might think so. A recent article in the New York Times, however, concludes differently.It starts at the top -- the federal government simply does not have hard and fast rules in place regarding best practices for roadway construction zones. As the article points out, while motorist activities are carefully monitored and analyzed, construction contractors and state highway inspectors essentially act without federal supervision, and they don't want it. Since every construction project is different, they argue, there is no way the federal government could apply a specific set of rules to regulate state projects.Still, while the level of coordination between the Federal Highway Administration and state authorities is poor, sometimes the lines of communication between the state and construction contractors are just as frayed. Fatal accidents often devolve into a blame game, while the family members of those killed in accidents wait for justice.Despite the extremely high number of accidents and work zone fatalities in Texas, lawmakers seem disinclined to amend work zone safety laws any time soon. On the Texas Department of Transportation Web site, all energy is directed toward warning drivers about safety rules.It's true -- drivers should slow down, pay attention and be aware of construction workers. But an unsafe environment can be addressed from both sides. Sharp pavement-edge drop-offs, inadequate warning signs and poorly constructed detours can be just as dangerous as inattentive drivers.If you or a loved one has been injured while driving in a work zone, you may have a legal claim against the contractors who were performing the work. Contact an attorney to discuss the facts of your case.

"Consumer Reports Rates Safest Vehicles"

Each year Consumer Reports rates the best vehicles for overall safety. They determine the safety scores by combining government and insurance industry crash test scores with accident avoidance results. Included on the list are the Kia Soul, Mazda3, Acura TL, Volkswagen Passat, Cadillac CTS, Nissan Rogue, and Infiniti EX. On the other hand, on the worst list are the Chevrolet Aveo, Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio, Scion tC, and Dodge Dakota.

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