Punitive Damages – to Punish and Deter Wilful Negligence

Following recent judgements against Monsanto in US Product Liability Cases, we need to understand why the damages were so large – and perhaps more importantly learn how we can avoid similar penalties.

Roundup - glyphosphate base herbicide
ROUNDUP is a glyphosate-based Herbicide – supplied By Monsanto

Facts of The Case

Monsanto, now owned by Bayer AG, have been selling glyphosate-based  herbicides under the ROUNDUP brand name since 1974. On it’s website and in their marketing literature Monsanto claim:-

Glyphosate-based herbicides are supported by one the most extensive worldwide human health and environmental effects databases ever compiled for a pesticide product. Comprehensive toxicological and environmental fate studies conducted over the last 40 years have time and again demonstrated the strong safety profile of the widely used herbicide


https://monsanto.com/app/uploads/2017/07/Glyphosate-benefits-and-safety_public-FINAL.pdf

However, amid growing public concern that powerful herbicides such as ROUNDUP may have undesirable side effects – Monsanto have mounted a vigorous public relations campaign to defend their brand against ‘activist and campaigners’

Monsanto now face over 4,000 claims from people in the USA claiming that exposure to  ROUNDUP has caused various cancers including Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL).

The first case to reach trail concerned DeWayne Johnson,  a 46 year old groundsman employed by the Benica unified school district in California – a frequent user of Monsanto’s Roundup products from 2012 until late 2015 – who was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2014.

By the summer of 2018, when the case reached trial, Dewayne’s life expectancy was months rather than years – and 80% of his body was covered with lesions.

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Case Study;- Swindon Bus Crash (3 January 2018)

Swindon Bus Shelter Demolished by Bus

What happened?

On 3 January 2018, a local bus crashed into and demolished a bus shelter on Flemming Way, when the driver lost control as they prepared to move away from the stop. More by luck than judgement, nobody was killed or seriously injured – but the incident provides a useful case study to explore how Product Liability Law works.

By chance I was working in Swindon on the day of the accident – which occurred at the end of the evening rush hour. Walking back to my hotel after delivering a Product Liability Training Course, I arrived on the scene as the recovery crews were starting work. So, as a ‘curious onlooker’, with no role in the investigation – let me share my thoughts with you.

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GDPR Compliant Privacy Policy

As our new website developed by Deeper Blue will going live this month we have spent some time reviewing and updating our Privacy Notice to ensure that we are compliant with the new GDPR, and our updated Privacy Notice is available here

If you have any questions or comments about this, please get in touch

 

Improving Problem Solving Capability

Problem Solving is an Essential Skill

The importance of ‘Problem Solving’ and the ‘Continuous Improvement Process’ has been recognized by quality improvement experts, and management gurus for many years – including Phil Crosby  and William Edwards Deming.  But in the real world of industrial production and management, effective problem solving remains the exception rather than the rule, as managers and political leaders tolerate, or encourage, ‘short-term fixes’ rather than grappling with the underlying causes of our current difficulties.

Phil Crosby set out some basic principles for a problem solving culture, when he argued that:-

  • Quality is Conformance with the Requirements
  • The standard is Zero Defects
  • The measure is the Price of Non-Conformance
  • The method is Prevention
  • The process is Continuous Improvement

Crosby focused on the hidden price of non-conformance to drive continuous improvement, while Deming focused on the use of statistical tools and techniques to identify, control and eliminate the sources of variation in product design and manufacturing. However, Crosby and Deming agreed that there are no prizes for doing the wrong thing more efficiently than your competitors, so we must understand ‘added value’ and market requirements in order to eliminate waste or muda and reduce reduce the price of non-conformance. (more…)

Experts in Civil Litigation

When do you need an expert?

If you are involvedPreston Law Centre in a dispute that can not be settled quickly by negotiation, you may be forced to contemplate ‘Legal Action’ – perhaps to obtain compensation or enforce an agreement or contract with your supplier or client. Although you may be convinced that you have a ‘strong case’ based on the ‘known facts’, rushing into Legal Action should be avoided – because the process may prove very time consuming and expensive while causing irreparable damage to your business and personal relationships.

If however, you are contemplating or involved in legal action, you will need to obtain advice from a qualified solicitor who will explain the legal process, and advise you how to proceed. (more…)

Lean Product Development – How You Can to Beat Your Competitors to Market

During the 1980’s the automotive industry in Europe and the USA became increasingly concerned about competition from Japan and Asia, because new entrants to the market were gaining significant market share and attacking their traditional domination of the global automotive market. In order to understand the source of their apparent competitive advantage, and the threat to their market dominance, the industry sponsored a research project run by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), to compare and contrast different companies in the industry. (more…)

GM’s Ignition Switch Recall: FMEA Analysis

Car ignition switch with hanging keysGeneral Motors (GM) has launched a series of product recalls since January 2014, due to problems with ignition switches installed in vehicles built since 2003 – which may result in ‘moving stalls’ or disable the air bag system moments before a crash. GM acknowledges that at least 13 people have been killed in crashes when the air-bags did not deploy – although air-bag deployment would have been expected, judging by the vehicle damage and circumstances of the crash.

The problems, caused by poor design design of the ignition switch, were first reported to GM during the launch of the Chevrolet Cobalt in 2003, by employees driving early production vehicles in their ‘Captive Fleet Trials’ program, as well as journalists during the press launch, who reported ‘moving stalls’ – when the engine shut-down as the ignition key moved out of the “run position” while they were driving. (more…)

GM’s Ignition Switch Recall: The story so far…

General Motors (GM) has become embroiled in a political and legal firestorm, following it’s acknowledgement that from 2003 until 2007 it supplied Cobalt and Ion cars fitted with a dangerous and defective ignition switch, that could prevent the air bags deploying in an accident – resulting in at least 13 unnecessary deaths since 2003.

Anton Valukas, a lawyer commissioned by GM to investigate ‘how and why we got into this mess’ has now produced his report for the GM Board – and a redacted copy is available on the NHTSA website as a free download. Based on detailed research and over 300 witness interviews, the 325 page report presents a remarkably frank and brutal expose of the events that allowed a life threatening defect to reach production  – and GM’s failure to identify or solve the problem for over 10 years. 

Like most ignition switches, the unit fitted to the GM Cobalt and Ion cars had 4 distinct positions – controlling the power supply to vehicle’s electrical systems.

Key Position Active Electrical Systems 
Off Vehicle Lights, 
Accessory Vehicle lights, In car Entertainment etc.
Run Vehicle lights, In car entertainment
Engine and drive line, safety systems
Crank / Start Vehicle lights, In car entertainment
Engine and drive line, safety systems,
Engine Start.

The problem started with poor design and specification of the ignition switch, that required minimal effort to rotate the key in the lock barrel. This Allowed the key to turn from ‘Run’ to ‘Accessory’ or ‘Off’ when it was knocked by the driver’s knee or subjected to severe vibration. Unintended movement of the key could occur during normal driving, causing a ‘moving stall’ – or as the vehicle crossed rough ground during a pre-crash event – preventing air bag deployment on impact. (more…)

Product Recalls – and How to Prevent Them

Vehicle manufacturers and component suppliers are becoming uncomfortably familiar with the need to recall their products to fix ‘safety defects’ – and the negative publicity that such recalls can attract. In fact, data supplied by NHTSA – the US regulator for vehicle safety – shows that a ‘typical vehicle’ sold in the US will need to be recalled more than once to correct safety defects – and the situation has been getting progressively worse since the 1990’s. (more…)