Adonis Diaries

Archive for July 8th, 2009

Article 32,

“Consumer Product Liability Engineering”

Liability connotes a legal venue to redress a social harm or injustice suffered by an individual or a group of people. When product liability is studied as a legal issue then we brace ourselves for an evolving process that changes with time, development in constitutional law, and the adopted legal system whether based on “civil law” wrote by a legislative body or common law subject to court interpretation and based on precedents established by court decisions.

Knowing the basics of product liability is of paramount importance for design engineers since finger-pointing is naturally directed toward those who were responsible for designing, manufacturing and marketing deficient products that caused harms such as bodily injuries, death or financial loss and legally termed “tort” (a wrong done to someone). In any legal case there are two main parties: the plaintiffs or those who suffered harm and the defendants or those entitled to salvage foreseeable loss from the accusation or lawsuit.

A product liability plaintiff can be an individual consumer who purchased a product, material or intellectual, and through deficiencies in the product or misuse from its intentional function or abuse in deceptive advertising suffered adverse consequences or it can be any manufacturing equipment that harmed a worker or an operator or a program intended to facilitate a job and failed to deliver what it promised to offer. Recently, there have been groups of plaintiffs such as tobacco consumers, asbestos cases, auto recalls, environmental pollutions in water drinking, earth contamination, and dangerous manufacturing by-product refuses discharged in inhabited locations and so on.

The defendants could be a private designer, an industry, a company, a municipality or even a government branch or a State.

This article is focused on the liability for product design so that an engineer designer develop the proper behavior when assigned a job design and comprehend that the ultimate user of his product is a human being and there are consequences for a failed or a deficient product.  Product liability was initiated as a form of contractual relationship between the local manufacturer and the consumer called “privity“; another of its aspects involve warranty or promise that a product will or will not do.

Once middlemen appeared in the purchase process the contract was established all along the chain of commerce and this concept of privity began to erode for the alternative doctrine of negligence or lack of care normally expected.  The next development was bypassing the costly and difficult necessity of proving negligence by plaintiffs in order to be able to win a case by adopting the doctrine of “strict liability in tort”.  

When the unaware plaintiff of the unsafe usage of a product is injured and, as long as the product was being used the way it was intended to be used, then the plaintiff can sue for the fact that he was injured. In order to encourage companies for safer conditions in products, laws have been enacted so that if a defect has been repaired in subsequent production of the same product line then plaintiffs cannot use this previous deficiency fact in court to prove that the initial products were defectives.  A compendium of product liability cases were summarized in volumes called “Restatements of Torts Second”.

            The next important modifications were to extend intended use to “foreseeable misuse” of a product so that the expert engineer designer must foresee the alternative ways that a target user might use his product in manners not intended originally.  The designer has also to be aware that failure to provide warnings on a product or manuals, in pictorial and written forms, are cited as defects in a product; a warning must be visible in obvious locations and specify clearly the hazard though it cannot be used as disclaimers by the manufacturer.

            Other forms of product liabilities can be found in breach of warranty whether explicit or implied such as depicting Jeeps capable of flying with the greatest of ease and clearing the tops of steep hills. The defects in Jeeps were cited so often that their cases were given proper categorizations such as “handling”, “propensity to overturn”, “occupant protection”, or “failure to warn”.

            There are other legal doctrines that were developed for product liabilities such as “comparative negligence” where defendants’ parties are judged to fraction percentages at fault of the damage awarded to plaintiffs and “deep pockets” doctrine formally known as “joint and several liabilities” where defendants evaluated not being able to pay then the remaining rich parties would pick up the whole tab of the award.

            It is important to differentiate between product liability and “workers’ compensation” insurance law (where injured workers are covered for medical treatment and some monetary compensation for a disabling injury).  In the event that the defective equipment or product is not manufactured by the employer of the injured worker then the latter may sue the manufacturer to cover any inadequate workers’ compensation expenses.

            The best strategy for designers and manufacturers to avoid product liability suits or becoming “judgment proof” is first, to consciously design in safety in their products and which require les maintenance than competitive products and second, to acquire the proper attitude in conducting good-faith negotiations with the injured party.  It is important that the defendant during “interrogatory” never sign a list of answers that are wrong or misleading to questions that the plaintiff’s lawyer asked under oath, otherwise, if an answer is proven false then the defendant might expect from the jury to award huge punitive damages that far exceeds a normal settlement.

            From the plaintiff’s standpoint his best strategy is:

First, to be knowledgeable about protecting his rights in recovering damages,

Second, to retain a specialist lawyer with connections to the best engineering expert witnesses who nine out of ten cases can convince the defendant’s lawyer to settle out of court based on proper technical evidence,

Third, the plaintiff has to avoid destroying evidence or sign premature releases or make incorrect admissions against his own interest before hiring his expert lawyer.

Hassan Nasr Allah: Speeches  

Note: Part Two focuses on the speeches of Hassan Nasr Allah, Secretary General of Hezbollah since February 18, 1992.

 

            If you desire to meet Sayyed Hassan face to face then you must be highly motivated: even the Hezbollah leaders have to be driven to three different underground parking lots and then picked up in three waiting different cars before they stop at a regular building no different than the neighboring buildings.  Hassan recounted that former President of the Lebanese Republic, Amine Gemayel, witnessed a lengthy merry go round excursion and when he met Nasr Allah his face was as white as a bed sheet out of fright, imaginary guilt, or simply pure dizziness.  Then, Nasr Allah meets his visitor in agile quick steps with pink shy cheeks, large smile, friendly demeanor, and perfumed thick beard.

            Nasr Allah reads the Israeli dailies and their editorials since the Zionist State is the arch enemy of Lebanon, the Palestinians, and the resistance movements in the Levant.  Sayyed Hassan understands that Israel’s policies are heavily biased toward its internal public opinion.  Thus, the speeches of Nasr Allah have psychological undertones to win over the confidence of the Israelis to his messages more than to their proper political leaders.

            The Lebanese author and politician Kareem Bakradouny told Hassan “You are Israel’s problem. Without your leadership Israel would have stayed in Lebanon for another hundred years”.  Sayyed Hassan retorted “One hundred years is too little for them. They worked for three thousand years to return (to a fictitious biblical land)”

 

            “The Table of Dialogue” among the Lebanese political party leaders to iron out a strategic defense plan met in May 2006 and Hassan Nasr Allah explained in details for over 70 minutes the military status of the Lebanese Resistance. Nasr Allah said “Israel is our enemy; it wants our land and natural water resources from the Nile to the Euphrates. Israel pursues offensive wars as means to resolving its internal problems. The resistance forced Israel to withdraw from most of south Lebanon and then to build the wall of shame to retrench behind it. In military science it is not possible to oppose a regular army superior in manpower and hardware but through popular resistance.

            The Lebanese army is not prepared for such frontal assaults because not a single state is willing to offer Lebanon adequate armament of the same quality as Israel.  The Lebanese Resistance defeated the Israeli regular army because it was more agile, flexible, knew the terrain, knew the weak spots in the enemy and adopted the appropriate inexpensive arms to face Israel.  Israel was defeated because there were complete coordination between the resistances forces and the Lebanese army and the popular support of the citizens in the war areas and in the depth of the territory.  Thus, since the Lebanese government is not supporting the resistance forces financially then it is logical for the government not to take any decisions of canceling the resistance at this phase.”  The meeting was adjourned to June 8, 2006 so that the government could prepare an alternative “Strategic Defense Plan”

            On July 14, 2006 Israeli navy shelled the residence of Sayyed Hassan in Beirut and the rumors wanted hin dead under the rubbles.  Less than half an hour later, Nasr Allah was inviting the Lebanese to watch an event far in the sea: An Israeli warship “Haneet” was set aflame by a direct hit by one of secret Hezbollah land sea misiles. Nasr Allah said “If Israel go ahead with an all out war then our misiles will reach Haifa, cities further than Haifa, and further yet of Haifa.”  Israel refrained from bombing Beirut after Nasr Allah warned of targeting Tel Aviv.

            On July 15, 2006 Nasr Allah showed up again with a confirmation “We warned Israel not to target civilian centers but it didn’t listen.  We thus targeted Haifa. We made sure not to hit the petro-chemical complexes in Haifa.  If Israel resumes the all out war then there will be no red lines in war thereafter.  We are waiting anxiously for Israel to begin its land incursion.”  He went on: “We are not asking anything from the Arab States and we don’t need their aids. We are simply demanding the Arab League not to show moral weaknesses at this junction.  Think of your dignity, your future, and the future of your children.”

What’s about quoting? (July 8, 2009)

 

            I noticed recently that authors insist on including a quote at the beginning of a new chapter.  I like reading quotes: it confirms that people have the same thoughts and wisdoms in variations of their period. It is excelent to repeat what has been written centuries ago: new generations have got to read from scratch anyway; it is good to amaze new generations that people were not as dumb as the new technologies lead them to assume about the elder generations.  I like quotes; more importantly, I love to re-phrase them: it is my contribution to the older generations that I appreciate their efforts of reflection and study by offering mine.  When I am short on ideas then I can work on the style and forms.

 

            I read a couple of days ago a French novel by Guillaume Musso “What after”.  The setting is invariably in the USA, more specifically in New York City and four hours drive from this center; excluding a plane flight to San Diego.  It is about the existence of  living “messengers” who have the gift or the plight of forecasting the near death of people they encounter; these messengers see white aura “aureole” surrounding the head of the next victims of random killings, accidents, suicides, or incurable illnesses.  Nathan is the hero; he got through a near death experience at the age of eight; he was given a choice to resume living and decided reluctantly to accept the invitation because he saw the love of his life suffering from terminal illness in the future and she needed his presence to sooth the passage in her last hours among the living.

 

            I had to summerize this lovely novel just to include the quotes (re-phrased) that each of the chapters exhibited at the beginning.

 

            “How can we ever be human without faults?” (The question will always remain: what are considered faults and who has the legitimacy of identifying, describing, and judging faults?)

            “You are born an aristocrat; another conquers his greatness.” (Question: what is greatness and who is legitimate to define and judge what is great?)

            “We cannot cuddle at night with our celebrity” (Marelyn Monroe)

            “We are slow to believe what gives us great pain to believe in” (Ovide)

            “The dead are invisible; they are not absent” (St. Augustin)

            “Events don’t necessarily arrive as you wish; learn to watch events as they come” (Epictetes)

            “In reality we know nothing; truth is in the bottom of the abyss” (Democretes)

            “The time to learn to live; it is already too late” (Aragon)

            “We are young once: we have an enitre life to recall our youth” (Barry Levinson)

            “Love is the folly of friendship” (Seneque)

            “For death our cities are totally defenseless” (Epicure)

            “It is of love that we are always suffering” (Christian Bobin)

            “Nothing is lost: it has been returned” (Epictetes).  (The trick to return whatever is lost in grace as gift)

            “A bungled job at the end of life is worse than death”

 

There are a few other lovely ideas that I pick up here and there such as my own quotes:

            “The center of the universe is constantly shifting; it does not venture far away: the center is the detail in a task that focuses all your attention”

            “Not many tasks are boring routines: all you need to do is attaching a metaphore to the task.  When you wash the dishes in the evening it could mean washing off the dregs of the day that you had to endure. Have good dreams.”


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

July 2009
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