For 10 years, there were no jury verdicts of $1 billion or more in cases involving defective products. In 2014, that trend stopped with several verdicts exceeding that total. Some have tied the absence of large verdicts from 2004 to last year to extensive lobbying efforts by "tort reform" groups. Others suggest that the gap was due to the settlement of the major class action lawsuits against the tobacco industry. Whatever the reason, the return of larger jury verdicts has an impact on the makers of consumer goods and the victims of injuries and illnesses caused by product defects.
By June of last year, it became clear that the total number of vehicles recalled in 2014 would be an all-time record. The final tally is in and just shy of 64 million vehicles were recalled for safety defects, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The number of vehicles recalled last year was greater than the sum of 2013, 2012 and 2011 recalls. The massive increase led to calls from NHTSA leadership that more resources and more authority were needed to keep auto makers and the makers of automobile products in line.
The more time that passes following an accident, the harder it is to determine the cause of that accident. The National Transportation Safety Board is asking the Federal Aviation Administration to make several changes it hopes will allow plane crashes to be found faster and will aid in investigating those crashes. The eight recommendations from the NTSB to the FAA were outlined in a 13-page letter this week. The FAA promised to review the recommendations and prepare a formal response.
Illinois State Trooper Douglas Balder discussed the truck accident that injured him and killed a tollway worker on the one-year anniversary of the incident. When asked about the crash, he said, "I view it as a failure of the system to take care of us." Officer Balder was not the only Illinois policeman involved in a truck crash recently. State Trooper James Sauter was struck and killed in 2013 when his cruiser was rear-ended by semi. Officer Balder and the widow of Officer Sauter are advocating for the use of reckless homicide charges in cases like theirs.