And remember all the broken arms from the jungle gym? And have you heard about all the broken necks off diving boards?
Like so many, when I went to law school, I thought that people in my profession (engineering) were getting a bad rap and just needed better advocates. Like so many things, it wasn't as simple as I thought.
In my second year of law school at Syracuse, I was hired to clerk at a local personal injury plaintiffs' firm because they wanted my background to help with their products liability cases. In one of the first cases I worked on, our client was a quadriplegic who'd been a guard on the Syracuse football team. He had a summer job at a local brewery blowing out the dregs from kegs coming back for refill. The end of one of the kegs had blown off explosively when he put the standard 23 psi tavern head on it. He had been shot across the room, where he'd landed, breaking his neck. (For those interested in doing the force arithmetic, the keg was about 20" in diameter.)
The keg had been manufactured of stainless steel and was almost new, so how could it have exploded? It was a welded design, which design we learned had just come off patent. The end had blown off it just like the top off a jar. :scratch:
I contacted a former colleague who was a metallurgist to ask him what he thought about it. He asked me if Syracuse had an engineering library and if they had old journals of ASTM (Am. Society for Testing and Mat'ls). When I said they did, he said I should go up there and look for articles from the 1930's about a phenomenon called "sensitization," where chromium precipitates out of some stainless steel alloys when heated to the "low-red" heat range (around 900°F.). When this happens, you have an area of the stainless steel which is, uh, no longer stainless.
Guess what? The cheapskate engineers for the copy-cat low-bidder keg manufacturer had saved some money by specifying an alloy for their welded kegs that caused bands of material certain distances away from all the welds to be subject to corrosion. And the result was that thousands of kegs were destined to fail when they corroded through near to the welds. And we had a 20-year-old client who couldn't even touch his thumbs to his fingers -- for the rest of his life.
Wanna talk about formative experiences? 46 pages of interrogatories later ("Are any of your design engineers members of ASTM? If so, can they read?"), defense counsel flew in from Chicago, suing for peace, as it were. Do you think they had ever admitted they were wrong? Do you think they even told us that they recalled tens of thousands of these kegs because they knew they screwed the pooch -- and our client -- trying to save the almighty dollar on material?
It's not just the horrible, unnecessary injuries that grossly defective products cause, it's the disfigured forceps babies, the people who've gotten the wrong limbs amputated, and on and on, right on down the line. Some of these guys, like the cheapskate designers who crippled my old client, should have been put in jail. Or at least exposed to the claims for punitive damages which always get the "tort reformers" screaming. Because NOTHING, no amount of money, could give our client his life back, or could give so many profoundly injured people theirs back either. Sure, as we said above, there are always examples of cases where insurance companies settled when they should have defended or where juries have made mistakes (often because they didn't follow the instructions they were given by the court), but all one need do is know somebody who's been hurt like this, or see one of these cases in detail, to understand why the tort system is so fundamental a part of the highly advanced society in which we are privileged to live.
Business only understands the bottom line and it's sad but true that the deterrent effect of exposure to large verdicts is the only thing that keeps business honest. It's the way our system works -- and has worked for a very long time. And the efforts of the insurance industry and all the "Chamber of Commerce" boyz to stack the deck to "cap" tort claims is just a cynical attempt to stack the deck and put the fox in charge of the henhouse.
At what cost, you ask? Let's use your numbers and look at it like the insurance we buy. For a premium of $845-90, that's $755, you get all the safety advances in medicine, drugs, products, environmental safety (ck the water and air quality in other countries) that we enjoy because all the goddam lawyers have pursued them for somebody other than you who got to test the product.
Or there's always China, if you want your 1950 life today. But there, you'll have to get the lead out yourself.