Over the past several decades, one could be forgiven for assuming that tobacco usage was on its way out, as the number of users in the United States has been in decline for quite some time. While this may be the case for traditional tobacco products, a brand new category has recently emerged on the scene: electronic cigarettes. Alternately known as “e-cigs” and “vapes,” these devices vaporize liquid containing nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals for the user to inhale. Although electronic cigarettes are generally considered to be a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes, there have been incidents of them exploding and causing fire and injury, which has led to several lawsuits.

Benefits over Traditional Cigarettes

The general consensus in the medical and regulatory community is that electronic cigarettes are not completely without risk, but they are much healthier than traditional cigarettes. In 2015, the United Kingdom’s Public Health England published a study that found e-cigarettes may be 95% less dangerous to human health than smoking tobacco. The UK’s Royal College of Physicians subsequently recommended that e-cigarettes be used specifically as smoking cessation devices.Another study by University College London found that e-cigarettes are “far safer and less toxic than smoking conventional tobacco cigarettes.” The study examined toxin levels in saliva and urine from smokers and e-cigarette users. Smokers who had switched to e-cigarettes reportedly exhibited “significantly lower levels of toxic chemicals and carcinogens compared to people who continued to smoke tobacco cigarettes.” While the amount of toxic chemicals in electronic cigarettes is lower than traditional cigarettes, they are still present. A 2014 study found that nearly 75 percent of 159 e-liquid samples contained concentrations of diacetyl and acetyl propionyl, both chemicals that have been associated, when inhaled, with respiratory diseases.

A Chipotle restaurant in Loudon County, Virginia temporarily closed its doors on July 17 due to multiple reports that several of its customers had become severely ill after eating there. The closure sent the company’s stock price down more than six percent. The reports stated that the customers experienced repeated symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and fever. Several of the afflicted customers claim that they were diagnosed with norovirus when they visited their doctors. This latest norovirus outbreak has renewed food safety concerns tied to Chipotle, as the company suffered a similar rash of food poisoning events nationwide in 2015.

Norovirus Symptoms and Prevalence

Norovirus is the leading cause of illness from contaminated food in the United States, with about 50% of all food-borne illness being caused by norovirus. Foods that are commonly involved in outbreaks of the illness are leafy greens, fresh fruits, and shellfish, but any food that is served raw or handled after being cooked can be contaminated. The virus can easily contaminate food because it is very tiny and infective. It only takes a very small amount of virus particles (as few as 18) to make someone sick. Food can get contaminated with norovirus several ways, including when:

This summer, a mother was alarmed when her infant child suffered from heatstroke while sitting on a plane that was stuck on the tarmac at Denver International Airport. Emily France and her four-month old son, Owen, sweated it out aboard what she described as an “oven with wings” for more than an hour in June of 2017 before the plane returned to the gate and passengers were briefly allowed off. When they returned to the plane, France said that the cabin felt even warmer than before, so she stripped off her child’s clothing and asked the flight attendants to bring her ice bags to try and cool him down. She then claims that her son turned a color she had never seen before and went limp in her arms. The child was taken away by an ambulance, but doctors determined that he suffered no long-term effects.

Ms. France’s ordeal is not uncommon, as airlines have struggled with overheated airplane cabins for quite some time. In the summer of 2013, several passengers on a delayed Allegiant Air flight became ill as the plane sat on the tarmac in the desert heat of Las Vegas. Also in 2013, more than 150 Allegiant Air passengers were forced to remain in an airplane on the runway for 2 1/2 hours in Phoenix after a maintenance problem knocked out air conditioning on the plane. After this incident, Allegiant spent more than $1 million on six, 60-ton cooling units for use at the Las Vegas airport, in hopes of avoiding a repeat of the Phoenix fiasco.

These problems arguably stem from the fact that each airline sets its own guidelines for internal cabin temperature, with no formal guidance from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Some airlines allow internal temperatures of up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, which, to the average person, is swelteringly hot. The issues also stem from the practice of pilots turning off the air conditioning to save fuel when a plane is at the gate or taxiing. Other times, the outside air temperature is so warm (for example, in places like Las Vegas and Phoenix), that the airplane’s air conditioning cannot keep up.

ExxonMobil Corp. has been fined $165,000 by federal regulators for safety violations over an explosion that occurred in 2016 at a large oil refinery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  The  United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a total of nine citations, including citations for inadequate training and equipment maintenance at the aging facility. Exxon has stated that it is contesting OSHA’s most recent findings and the fines the agency imposed.

The facility in question is an alkylation unit that makes octane-boosting components for gasoline. The explosion occurred on November 22, 2016, when a worker removed the cover of a malfunctioning valve on an isobutane line and used a wrench to turn the valve system. As the operator turned the valve system, portions of the valve fell out, releasing isobutane and igniting a welding machine 70 feet away. As a result of the explosion, one worker was knocked off a scaffold and left dangling over the fire, while another worker was burned over most of her body. In total, four workers were injured, two of them severely.

This is not the first time the Baton Rouge facility has drawn the federal government’s ire; he facility was faulted five years ago by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to address corrosion on pipes and valves and for inadequate shutdown and emergency procedures provided to workers.In 2012, the EPA inspected the Baton Rouge refinery as part of a risk management prevention program and found Exxon had not examined more than 1,000 underground pipes in five years, many of which were corroded, according to the agency’s report on the inspection. The EPA also found that emergency and shutdown procedures failed to provide needed details for operators.According to the latest OSHA citations, Exxon’s safety procedures and training for operators on the alkylation unit were lacking, equipment was not properly maintained, and required safety inspections were not carried out within the required time periods. Eight of the nine citations were listed as “series,” each carrying a fine of $12,675. The ninth fine was for failing to carry out external visual and ultrasonic inspections of piping, and carried a fine of $63,373. The ninth fine was much higher than the fines for the other citations because OSHA cited Exxon in 2016 for violating the same inspection standard at a mother of its refining facilities in Baytown, Texas

Last month, automakers Toyota, BMW, Subaru, and Mazda agreed to pay a total of $553 million to current and former owners and lessees of 15.8 million vehicles that were fitted with airbags manufactured by Takata, the Japanese automotive parts company. The plaintiffs’ class-action lawsuit alleged that Takata airbags are prone to rupture, and have been linked to at least 11 deaths and over 100 injuries in the United States.

The cause of the ruptured airbags is alleged to be their inflation mechanism, which uses a compound called ammonium nitrate that fills the bags in a powerful controlled explosion. When ammonium nitrate is exposed to air or moisture over long periods of time, however, it can become unstable and explode more violently than it is intended, making the airbags particularly dangerous to consumers living in the Southeastern United States and Hawaii.

The defect has prompted the United States’s largest automobile recall ever, affecting almost 70 million airbags in 42 million vehicles.

More than three years after General Motors (GM) recalled 2.5 million of its 2005-2010 Chevy Cobalts, Pontiacs, and Saturns, the company recently lost its bid to prevent an Arizona driver some seeking damages for ignition-switch liability. The plaintiff, Dennis Ward, alleges that he was driving a 2009 Chevy HHR on March 27, 2014, when he rear-ended another driver in Tucson. The reason why he rear-ended the driver, he alleges, is because his vehicle “suddenly and unexpectedly lost power,” thus disabling his brakes and steering.

Faulty Ignition Switches

Beginning in 2001, several models of GM brands were fitted with an ignition switch that was found to be defective, causing cars to suddenly shut off while still in gear. These faulty switches could cause a loss of power steering, disable brakes, and prevent airbags from inflating. In some models, the key could even be removed from the ignition switch when it was not in the “off” position, which could cause the vehicle to roll away. The switches have been linked to at least 124 deaths and nearly 300 injuries. Once GM became aware of the problems associated with these ignition switches, it initiated a recall of about 800,000 vehicles in 2014, which was eventually expanded to over 30 million vehicles once the scale of the problem became apparent.

If you are involved in a car accident, you expect that, after the accident, the other driver will stop, get out of his car, and the two of you will call the police and exchange contact information. This is the normal way that most accidents proceed. However, sometimes the at-fault driver in a car accident does not stop after the accident, but keeps on driving. This is what is known as a “hit and run” accident. In this article, we will go over what to do if this happens to you.

Hit and Run Accidents in Georgia

Leaving the scene of an accident is a crime. In Georgia, this area of the law is codified at § 40-6-270 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) and reads, in pertinent part:

As the heat of summer reaches full blast, it is imperative that parents and childcare providers take extra precautions to guard children from heatstroke and other heat-related injuries and death. During the hot summer months, the inside of a vehicle can reach 125 degrees within minutes, with 80% of the increase in temperature occurring during the first 10 minutes. Because children’s bodies overheat three to five times faster than adults’ bodies, leaving a child in a hot car even for a matter of minutes can be deadly.

This was tragically illustrated last month when a five-year-old boy was found dead inside a daycare van in Arkansas. Police said that the boy was found dead, strapped in a booster seat, more than eight hours after being picked up by the daycare van as staff members prepared to load the van for children to go home. The heat index on the day the incident occurred was near 100 degrees.

The Arkansas Department of Human Services stated that all child care service providers in the state must follow certain safety requirements, including installing child safety alarm devices in vehicles used to transport more than seven passengers. The alarm systems are to be installed in such a way that the driver is required to walk to the back of the vehicle to reach a switch that deactivates the alarm. The agency reported that a monitor inspected the daycare van in question in February and found that the alarm system was in working order. Further, the daycare facility in question had also been rated “highly compliant” with state safety rules and regulations.

2017 has not been a great year for the airline industry when it comes to customer service problems and personal injury lawsuits. This year alone, there have been several high-profile incidents involving possible abuses of customers on major airlines, including:

  • The infamous United Airlines incident in April, in which a man was forcibly dragged from his seat when he refused to leave the airplane due to overbooking. As a result of his confrontation with airline security officers, the passenger suffered a concussion and the loss of several teeth.
  • An incident on American Airlines in which a mother of twins alleged that a flight attendant hit her with a stroller during boarding of an aircraft. When a fellow passenger called out the flight attendant in question, he responded by challenging the passenger to a physical fight.

In a series of end-of-term decisions by the Supreme Court, one decision has quietly made it harder for plaintiffs from diverse states to sue an out-of-state defendant in a class action lawsuit. The case, titled Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court, alters the rules governing the procedures whereby a particular state’s courts can exercise jurisdiction over litigants who do not live in that state. Before we discuss the case at issue, we’ll first give a general overview of how courts decide which cases they can hear.

A Primer on Personal Jurisdiction

In International Shoe v. Washington, the Supreme Court held that a particular state court (known as the “forum state”) could exercise jurisdiction over out-of-state defendants if the defendant had “minimum contacts” with the state. In subsequent cases, the court found that there are two ways of finding “minimum contacts.” The first is “general jurisdiction,” which requires the defendant to have “systematic and continuous contacts” with the forum state such that the defendant is at “home” in the state. If the defendant’s actions meet this test, then he or she can be sued for any actions in the state. The second is “specific jurisdiction,” which allows lawsuits against an out-of-state defendant only if the suit “arises out of or relates to the defendant’s contact with the forum” state.

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