The latest automotive technology—driverless vehicles—promises a world where accidents caused by human error are a thing of the past. Several companies, most notably Tesla, have made great strides toward bring this future into reality, but, as of 2017, we are not quite there yet. Most vehicles equipped with self-driving technology sold today are what are known as semi-autonomous vehicles, in which a human driver is still the primary operator of the vehicle, but the vehicle can assist the driver with a variety of tasks, including automatic braking, self parking, and lane detection. While these technologies are a promising start toward completely autonomous vehicles, they still have their limitations, which were tragically illustrated last year when an inattentive driver’s over reliance on his Tesla Model S sedan’s semi-autonomous driving system caused a deadly crash.

Joshua Brown, 40, was traveling on a divided highway near Gainesville, Florida using the Tesla’s automated driving system known as Autopilot when a truck driver made a left-hand turn in front of him. The vehicle did not recognize the oncoming truck, which resulted in a fatal collision. Tesla stated that it told drivers of the Model S vehicle that the automated systems should only be used on limited-access highways where there are no vehicles suddenly turning into the car’s path. Despite this warning, however, the company did not incorporate protections against using using Autopilot on other types of roads.

The Model S is a level 2 on a self-driving scale of 0 to 5. Level 5 vehicles can operate autonomously in nearly all circumstances. Level 2 automation systems are generally limited to use on interstate highways, which don’t have intersections. Drivers are supposed to continuously monitor vehicle performance and be ready to take control if necessary. In its investigation of the Brown accident, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that the car’s cameras and radar weren’t capable of detecting a vehicle turning into its path. Rather, the systems are designed to detect vehicles they are following to prevent rear-end collisions.Investigators also found that Brown had his hands on the car’s steering wheel for only 25 seconds out of the 37.5 minutes the vehicle’s cruise control and lane-keeping systems were in use prior to the crash. As a result, Brown’s attention wandered and he did not see the truck turning into his path.

Heat-related deaths among high school athletes is a serious and growing problem, although one that has only recently begun to receive widespread public attention. A study by the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research at the University of North Carolina reports that 18 high school athletes suffered from fatal exertional heat stroke between 2005 and 2009, with an additional 19 since 2010. A representative from the Kory Stringer Institute (KSI) a sports safety research and advocacy organization located at the University of Connecticut, stated that, since 2004, the yearly average of high school students suffering from fatal heat stroke is almost twice that of the preceding decades. Although there have been many efforts at the state and local level to combat these traffic deaths, a recent study by KSI and the National Football League (NFL) found that the implementation of policies to prevent heat-related deaths is far from uniform.

The study at issue shows that many individual states are not fully implementing key safety guidelines to protect athletes from potentially life-threatening conditions. The Youth Sports Safety Alliance, an organization representing more than 100 groups, issued the guidelines, which call for access to health care professionals, better-trained coaches, and up-to-date equipment. The state-by-state survey showed that North Carolina had the most comprehensive health and safety practices, adhering to 79% of the guidelines, followed by Kentucky at 71%. At the bottom were Colorado at 23% and California at 26%. Those scores are based on a state meeting the best practice guidelines addressing the four major causes of sudden death in high school athletes: cardiac arrest, traumatic head injuries, exertional heat stroke, and exertional sickling occurring in athletes with the sickle cell trait.

Dr. Douglas Casa, of KSI,  says that progress is slow because most states only make changes to their safety guidelines after a tragedy. In his field of expertise (exertional heat stroke), Casa notes that states that have adopted significant changes to their heat acclimatization practices have not suffered any deaths from exertional heat stroke. To prevent death from EHS, best practices come down to three things:

A state appeals court in Illinois has upheld a $21 million judgment for a railroad worker whose foot was crushed on the job. Michael Parsons had been working as a conductor for Norfolk Southern Railway Company in Chicago for a year when his foot was crushed between the rail car on which he was riding and a car he had recently left on an adjacent track on the 51st/55th Street railway in Chicago. He alleged that two months before the accident, the railroad had installed new, wider switches in the yard, which narrowed the space between the tracks from 12 feet and two inches to 10 feet and five inches, and that employees were not notified of this change.

At trial, expert witnesses for Parsons testified that Illinois state law required 13-foot six-inch spaces between the centers of each track. Because he was unaware that the spaces between the tracks had been narrowed, Parsons was struck unaware and struck by a passing train. After the accident, he was transported by ambulance to the emergency room. He sustained a traumatic amputation and degloving of his left heel, with tears to the Achilles and peroneal tendons and nerves and a calcaneus fracture. Parsons was hospitalized for five weeks, during which he underwent six surgical procedures, including multiple skin grafts and removal of his calcaneus. Parsons’ counsel claimed he was unable to use his foot for two years, and when he did, it resulted in an immediate tear to the skin graft, resulting in an infection. Parsons’ medical experts testified that for the rest of Parsons’ life he will experience cycles of skin breakdown on his heel, preventing him from using his foot for three months and requiring antibiotic treatment to prevent infection. Parsons’ orthopedic expert testified the only, permanent solution would be amputation of the leg below the knee. Parsons’ vocational assessment expert testified these issues will reduce his work life by 11.4 years.

As damages, he sought $36,000,000 for future medical expenses, lost income, past and future pain and suffering, loss of normal life and disfigurement. The jury subsequently found Norfolk Southern liable and awarded Parsons $22 million, from which Norfolk Southern appealed. Their primary argument on appeal was that the damages award should have been lower because Parsons was partially at fault for the accident. The appeals panel denied all of Norfolk Southern’s claims. Revisiting testimony from the jury trial, the panel determined that the jury could find Parsons’ conduct was reasonable owing to testimony supporting claims that his conduct leading up to the accident was customary for many rail yard workers. The court also found that reducing Parsons’s award was improper because, at the age of 34, he may need surgery every four or five years for the rest of his life and that his pain and suffering will only increase.

A settlement has been reached in the case of a teenager who was killed in a hayride accident in October of 2014.

17-year-old Cassidy Charrette died from head injuries when a mechanical problem caused a Jeep towing a wagon full of passengers to careen down a steep hill, flip over, and slam into a tree during a Halloween-themed hayride in Augusta, Maine. 20 other riders were also seriously injured and sent to the hospital after the accident. The hay wagon was being pulled by a 1979 Jeep when it crashed, according to the Augusta fire Marshall’s office. The driver, whom officials say was an experienced trucker who had a commercial driver’s license, was among those who were injured.The accident occurred at Harvest Hills Farm, a sprawling farm that is set on a forested hill about 25 miles southwest of Augusta. The owners had been hosting the haunted hayride for several years.

An ensuing criminal investigation found that that the farm had acted with criminal negligence in failing to maintain the Jeep at issue, and pleaded guilty to a charge of driving to endanger, a felony, in exchange for the dismissal of a manslaughter charge. A grand jury declined to indict Peter Bolduc, the owner of the farm, who has said he was unaware of the safety problems with the Jeep. The Jeep’s driver was acquitted of criminal charges, and charges were dropped against the farm’s mechanic last month. Although Bolduc was unaware of the Jeep’s condition, that did not absolve him of responsibility. Assistant District Attorney Andrew Matulis cited numerous problems with the Jeep that was hauling the wagon, including that the load was too heavy, the brakes were faulty, the parking brake was broken, and that there was an improper trailer hitch. The farm subsequently filed for bankruptcy and was sold at auction in the summer of 2015.

Schoolyard bullying has always been a part of growing up, and, until very recently, bullying was an issue that was mainly handled between the bully and the victim and their parents. However, in recent years, schools have taken a much more active role in preventing bullying amid a tragic wave of child and teen suicides that many see as a result of extreme, long-term bullying. This institutional concern about the effects of bullying has even made its way into the highest echelons of political life in the United States, as First Lady Melania Trump stated that her primary goal for her office would be to combat cyber bullying. There has also been a wave of parents seeking liability against their children’s schools for the harmful effects of bullying.

That is precisely what the parents of an eight-year-old boy who committed suicide by hanging himself from his bunk bed with a necktie are trying against his school. The wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of Gabriel Taye against Cincinnati Public Schools and school officials alleges repeated examples of Gabriel and other children being bullied at his elementary school. The parents contend that school officials knew about the bullying but were “deliberately indifferent” and allowed a “treacherous school environment.”

There is some legal precedent supporting the Tayes. According to the Supreme Court, “knowledge of harassment” and “failure to do something about it” are two elements that can expose a school to liability in bullying cases. However, the deliberate indifference standard set out by the Supreme Court is a very high bar for plaintiffs seeking liability against their children’s schools for bullying. It requires only that school administrators respond to known peer harassment in a manner that is “not clearly unreasonable in light of the known circumstances.” Thus, in order for liability to attach, the Tayes will have to show that Cincinnati Public Schools and school officials responded to their son’s bullying in a manner that was clearly unreasonable. One way that they could do this would be to show that the school district knew of the bullying, but took no action at all to stop it—a course of action that is arguably unreasonable.

The manufacturer of an amusement park ride that broke apart and killed a man believes that corrosion is to blame for the deadly accident.

Bystanders captured video on July 26 at the Ohio State Fair that shows the Fire Ball ride swinging back and forth like a pendulum and spinning in the air when it crashed into something and part of the ride flew off, throwing several passengers to the ground. On its website, Amusements of America states that, since its debut in 2002, the Fire Ball has “become one of the most popular thrill rides on the AOA midway.” The company describes the ride as an “aggressive thrill ride,” stating that it swings riders 40 feet into the air while spinning them at 13 revolutions per minute. Ride inspectors say they did not notice anything out of the ordinary when they conducted their inspections and cleared the Fire Ball ride for passengers. All of the rides at the fair are checked several times when they are being set up to ensure that they are set up the way the manufacturer intended. The state’s chief inspector of amusement ride safety, Michael Vartorella, said that the Fire Ball had been inspected three or four times before the fair opened. The incident prompted officials at the Ohio State Fair to temporarily shut down all rides for a short time so that they could be inspected, as well as officials at the California State Fair to shut down the Fire Ball ride there.

The ride’s manufacturer, KMG, has recently offered an explanation as to why the ride broke apart, stating that corrosion within a support beam wore away the steel wall’s thickness over the years, causing a catastrophic failure of the swinging and spinning ride. Corrosion experts say that the company’s account points to water or wet debris being trapped within the hollow support arm of the ride, probably while it was being transported or stored during the carnival off-season. What’s not so clear is how the water got into the support beam in the first place. Exterior structures of rides such as the Fire Ball should ideally be designed in a way that moisture cannot be trapped. Ultrasonic testing is the best way to find out if corrosion is eating away at metal, but it can also be felt or spotted at the point when rust starts to build up. Amusements of America submitted paperwork to the Ohio State Fair showing that it had completed ultrasonic testing of the ride’s 24 gondola arm pins last year, but it is not clear whether the test examined the area where the carriage broke on July 26.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is reportedly looking into the oversight of a father-son team that was conducting the hazardous operation of moving a gas meter at a Minneapolis school earlier this month when a natural gas explosion caused part of the building to collapse, killing two people. The blast occurred at Minnehaha Academy, a private Christian school in Minneapolis, on August 3rd, just several weeks before school was due to start back. The two victims of the explosion are Ruth Berg, a receptionist who had worked at the school for 17 years, and John Carlson, a part-time custodian and alumnus of the school.

The explosion occurred at about 10:30 AM when contractors working on the building frantically warned of a gas leak. The subsequent explosion collapsed walls, buckled floors, ignited fires, and knocked people off their feet outside the building. Emergency responders and school employees fought fires and climbed through debris to bring people to safety. About eight people were rescued from the building in the immediate aftermath of the explosion, but two remained missing. Berg’s body was found early in the afternoon, and Carlson’s body was found six hours later, both in the rubble near an exterior door.

City records show that the father-son duo that the NTSB is investigating were working for contractor Master Mechanical, which was issued a permit on June 7th for “gas piping and hooking up meter” at the school’s address. The contractor was hired to move a gas meter from inside the school building to outside the school as part of gas company CenterPoint Energy’s plan to move meters outside for easier access. Master Mechanical has been cited twice for workplace violations in recent years, including a violation related to failing to protect an employee from falling in 2010 and a paperwork violation in 2014.

The general rule of premises liability for landowners is that landowners owe visitors to their property a duty to keep them safe from unreasonable risks of injury. This rule does not only apply to landowners, however; it also applies to occupiers (namely tenants) of real property. So what happens if someone is injured in an apartment building, where there are two potentially responsible parties–the landlord and the tenant? § 44-7-14 of the Georgia Code spells out when the landlord is responsible and when the tenant is responsible:

Having fully parted with possession and the right of possession, the landlord is not responsible to third persons for damages resulting from the negligence or illegal use of the premises by the tenant; provided, however, the landlord is responsible for damages arising from defective construction or for damages arising from the failure to keep the premises in repair.

In light of O.C.G.A. § 44-7-14, the question of liability turns on the issues of where in the building the accident occurred and whether the tenant was aware of the danger. In most cases, landlords are liable only for injuries that occur in the common areas of their buildings or that are the result of hidden defects in occupied dwelling units.

A teenage boy’s parents are filing a products liability suit against Amazon after they allege that the company sold a samurai sword that was unreasonably dangerous. Sixteen-year-old Tristan Ballinger and his friend J.K. were taking turns throwing a plastic water bottle into the air while the other boy tried to chop the bottle in half with the sword. At some point when J.K. was swinging the sword, the steel blade dislodged from the handle, sending the blade flying about 20 feet through the air and effectively impaling Ballinger in the forehead. Ballinger suffered a serious traumatic brain injury and spent six weeks in a coma. His doctor stated that his recovery will be a lifelong process and that he will need extensive physical and speech therapy for many years.

The samurai sword was given to a Ballinger by his aunt, Mindy Ballinger, who, in turn, had obtained it from her supervisor as an award at a work-related employee banquet. Rich Timpone, Mindy Ballinger’s supervisor, purchased the sword, sold as the “Anime Reino de Rasos Charlotte Cuulhourne Sword,” from Amazon for $19.95 in 2012. The sword was made by Georgia-based Top Swords and was modeled after a sword wielded by a popular anime character. It had a blade length of 27 inches, a rose pattern case metal guard, and a purple nylon-wrapped handle. The sword came with no safety instructions or warnings, and the blade did not extend the full length of the grip but was held in place with rubber cement only seven centimeters into the handle.

The defendants in the suit are named as Amazon and unknown defendants who were acting as agents, employees, subsidiaries, and affiliates of Amazon. The basis of the Ballingers’s complaint is that they allege that Amazon should have known that the product was defective and unreasonably dangerous to users. The complaint alleges that Amazon’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing the injuries to Tristan Ballinger. The sword is no longer available for purchase on either Amazon or Top Sword’s websites.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found last month that the death toll in the 2015 Metro-North Valhalla crash was exacerbated by the design of the railroad’s electrified third rail.  On the evening of February 3, 2015, a Metro-North railroad train was passing through Westchester County, New York when it slammed into an SUV on the tracks at a crossing, creating a fiery crash and explosion that killed six people, injured a dozen, and forced the evacuation of hundreds more. The incident was the deadliest crash in the railroad’s history. After over two years of investigations, the NTSB  has placed the primary responsibility for the crash on the driver of the SUV, but also found that the design of the railroad’s electrified third rail exacerbated the death toll and caused the resulting fire.

When the northbound Metro-North train struck the SUV, the collision created unusual violence as long lengths of a third rail running parallel to the train were lifted upward by the crumpled vehicle and flung one after another into the rail cars. Eleven sections of the third rail measuring a total of 343 feet penetrated the train, reaching as far as the second car and crushing passengers. The NTSB concluded that it was this third rail that caused the train to catch fire.

The third rail on a set of railroad tracks sits to the side of the main rails and carries power to the electric locomotives of the trains passing over it. Metro-North’s third rail design is unique from every other railroad system using a third rail in that it connects to the train via a device that runs along the bottom of the rail. As a result, when the third rail ends at an intersection, it curves slightly upward so that the train’s connectors can easily make contact again. When the train at issue struck the SUV, the steel bars of the third rail entered the vehicle and were guided upward until they entered the first car of the train.

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