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Toyota lost its case in Oklahoma in a battle over a sudden-acceleration accident. Could losses follow in California?

Toyota won its first three cases in the class-action lawsuit brought by vehicle owners who were injured or died in serious accidents when their vehicle escaped control. Then, a verdict in Oklahoma took the wind out of its sails.

In an attempt to manage the sheer number of cases brought against it, Toyota has agreed to pay a $1.6 billion settlement.

Even though Toyota has offered a settlement, hundreds of cases, both wrongful death lawsuits and personal injury cases, are still pending. Most of these legal battles have been consolidated in California courts. However, with the decision to proceed to a settlement, litigation is suspended. In January, a hearing began in the United States District Court for the Central District of California in Santa Ana, California. Settlement conferences began in February.

Since 2009, the automaker has recalled over 11 million Lexus and Toyota vehicles for stuck accelerators and other issues. The large scale of the recall and the number of people injured or dead as a result of company negligence prompted Toyota to offer the settlement following its Oklahoma loss. If the company pursued its court battles, it would need to prove that a vehicle defect did not cause sudden acceleration in each. That would prove difficult, as the installation of Toyota’s ETCS-I system, which controlled the engine throttle electronically (not manually) caused a staggering number of accidents.

If you have been involved in a situation like this one, speak to a personal injury attorney about your rights. A major auto manufacturer may be involved, but that does not mean you cannot win a verdict in your favor.

The Pointing Finger Defense

Squabbling neighbors sometimes provide more entertainment value than one would have thought possible. However, these disputes have the potential to turn quite ugly.

When it comes to neighbor disagreements and pointing fingers at each other, the top reason for getting into a battle royal happens to be trees. Yes, that’s right, fallen trees. When things like that happen, one hopes there is a cordial rapport between the neighbor whose tree fell and the neighbor who now has the tree right in the middle of their picture window.

“In theory, a tree falling over during a major storm is considered to be an act of God. That would mean no one would technically be responsible for the damage, even if the tree was at one time in one person’s yard. The house that sustained any damages would (also in theory) have homeowner’s insurance and be able to place a claim,” said Deborah Barron, of the Barron Law Office in Sacramento, California.

That’s just one example of what has the potential to light the fuse under one neighbor. Another one, with a few small changes in details, may tell a totally different story. “For instance, if the tree that crashed into the neighbor’s picture window was being trimmed at the time, chances are the tree owner is at fault. What if the tree’s owner was negligent in maintaining the tree properly and it had rotted away inside becoming a hazard just waiting to be blown over?” suggested Barron.

In many of these cases, it’s pretty hard to actually prove anything about causation after the tree has taken a tumble, which means in a lot of instances, the victim’s insurance antes up payment to allow the victim to get repairs done. Herein lies the conundrum. In order to maintain a good relationship with one’s neighbor, it might make some sense to offer to help pay the deductible for the insurance — so long as it was truly an act of God that caused the tree to fall. If it wasn’t, and things go from bad to worse with the neighbor, it’s time to consult with a lawyer and salvage what’s possible.

“Mediation is another alternative solution, and there are other cities in the US that have programs especially designed to assist fighting neighbors in dealing with issues like fallen trees and barking dogs — the second biggest complaint one neighbor has against another, along with excessive noise and encroachments on property like – well – trees,” added Deborah Barron, of the Barron Law Office in Sacramento, California.

When all else fails, then speak to an attorney who is able to handle situations like this with skill and a fair dash of mediation skills as well.

California Strict Product Liability

In a nutshell, strict product liability means liability of all the people involved in the manufacturing process from start to finish to distribution.

Not a lot of people truly realize that strict product liability is as all encompassing as it is. It actually covers the point of origin of a product right on down the chain to the final distribution point of the article or item. In other words, this will include the maker of an item, the place where it was assembled and the retail outlet where the product is eventually sold to the public.

Strict product liability actually goes even further than this in that if an item does have a defect that causes harm to a customer or a friend of a customer (who either borrowed the item or got it as a gift) then all of these people are considered to be defendants in a product liability suit.

Most people relate product liability to tangible products, or physical property, but this isn’t always the case. It may include real estate, books, navigational charts, gas and even pets. Interestingly, California law requires all makers of products to label them clearly with a printed warning, particularly if the product contains lead paint or other harmful pieces. Think small parts that kids could swallow.

To successfully prove a strict product liability case, the plaintiff must be able to show the product was indeed defective. In this area of the law, there are three kinds of product defects often launched in liability lawsuits: marketing defects, manufacturing defects and design defects.

A design defect is considered to be one that is built into the product. It (the defect) is in the design itself and is present prior to the manufacturing process. While the article may perform adequately for a consumer, it has the potential to be dangerous because of its flawed design.

On the other hand, manufacturing defects usually take place when the product is made, yet not all of the products made are defective. Marketing defects refer to poorly written instructions or the failure to warn a consumer about potential product dangers.

Product liability is a strict liability offense, and cases like this are not focused on how careful the defendant was or was not. Typically then, a defendant is liable when a product/item is defective — period. Speak to a well-qualified personal injury lawyer who will be able to assist in receiving compensation for any injuries suffered.