San Francisco Injury Lawyer Blog

Articles Posted in Product Liability

The family has gathered, the feast has been eaten, and the hosts are contemplating the inevitable leftovers.  Today is the unofficial kickoff to the holiday shopping season, although it seems like some stores have been holiday-ready for weeks!  As you begin to think about gifts for the youngest set, we urge you to consider the issues of toy safety.  Some of the hardest cases we see in our office involve children and our San Francisco, Oakland, and Santa Rosa toy injury lawyer wants children in Northern California and worldwide to enjoy a fun and safe holiday season.

WATCH Releases 2015 10 Worst Toys Listgifts2

World Against Toys Causing Harm,  a mouthful of a name that lends itself to the handy acronym “WATCH,” believes (as does our firm) that “One injury to one child as a result of a poorly designed or manufactured children’s product is one too many.”  Sadly, the group explains on its website, the toy industry makes some $70 billion worth of sales worldwide each year and with thousands of avoidable toy injuries occurring every year, WATCH believes that “safety often takes a back seat to earnings.”

Continuing an annual undertaking started in 1973, last week WATCH issued a press release announcing its 2015 10 Worst Toys List, a tally of some of the toys that WATCH believes pose a risk of injury or even death.  The list is not intended to be inclusive, but instead illustrates some of the dangers lurking on toy store shelves.  While we won’t name the exact toys herein, some of the hazards (many of which apply to multiple toys) that “earned” items a spot on the list include:

  • Parts that can break/come off or toys that children may naturally put in their mouths and pose a INGESTING, CHOKING, or AIRWAY BLOCKING HAZARD
  • Overly REALISTIC TOY WEAPONS that pose a range of dangers
  • Toys that cause an undue risk or HEAD, NECK, and OTHER INJURIES, including when used unsupervised, by young children, or without safety equipment (especially when the child on the package is not using any).
  • ALLERGY-RELATED dangers, particularly when only noted on “throw-away packaging”
  • Items with a risk of EYE and/or FACIAL INJURIES, including toys with various forms of ammunition firing capacity or long protrusions (particularly if anticipated play might raise the risk)
  • Toys that could cause BLUNT FORCE INJURIES, such as rigid toys that encourage battle-like play
  • Items with the potential to cause STRANGULATION and/or ENTANGLEMENT, including pull-type toys with cords at or over 12 inches (a maximum length for playpen/crib-play toys

Warnings, Standards, and Ethical Duties

According to WATCH, at least one of the toys contains a warning that “babies and young children have no idea what is dangerous or potentially harmful, so supervision is important.”  We agree that parents should supervise children, but we also believe manufacturers have a duty to make toys that are reasonably safe for the intended audience and, as a back-up defense, issue recalls if the dangers later become apparent.

Notably, the Toy Industry Association states that:

“All toys sold in the U.S., regardless of where they are made, must be tested to verify compliance with rigorous U.S. toy safety requirements, including more than 100 safety tests and standards. These standards are shaped by a variety of considerations, including research on child development, dynamic safety testing, and risk analysis. U.S. toy safety requirements are among the most stringent in the world and are widely emulated in other markets around the globe.”

A Closer Look at the Danger and Our California Child Injury Law Firm

Last month, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (“CPSC”) released its “Toy-Related Deaths & Injuries: Calendar Year 2014.”  According to the CPSC, the agency received reports of 11 toy-related deaths involving children under age 15 (the actual ages of the victims ranged from 13 months to 9 years) in 2014.  Additionally, the CPSC reports that hospital emergency departments in the United States treated approximately 251,800 toy-related injuries in 2014.  Of these injuries, 73% percent (183,800) involved children under age 15 and 69% (173,300) involved children under age 5.

One of our firm’s core beliefs is that prevention is always best.  This is especially true when it comes to children who by their nature require adult protection.  Together, these precepts demand that toy manufacturers have a duty to produce toys that are reasonably safe.  In most cases, children cannot stand up to assert their own legal rights.  If your child has been injured by a toy or other dangerous/defective consumer good, call our child injury law firm in Santa Rosa, San Francisco, or Oakland.  We can help you obtain compensation for your child and also remind manufacturers that unsafe toys will not be tolerated, a message that can help prevent other child injuries or even child deaths.

See Related Blog Posts:

Northern California Child Injury Lawyer on Strangulation by Window Cord Blinds: The Product Danger Remains

Toy-Related Injuries in the Holiday Season

(Image by mateoutah)

It seems like food safety is in the news more and more.  Last week, officials announced that an e. coli outbreak tentatively linked to a major chain restaurant has hit California (CBS News).  Foodborne bacteria LOVE the holidays.  As you contemplate Thursday’s feast, our San Francisco food safety law firm has some advice on holiday food safety to ensure foodborne illness doesn’t hit your Thanksgiving table.

Foodborne Illness and Holiday Celebrations

thanksgiving2Foodborne bacteria can strike at home as well as in commercial dining establishments.  The Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) webpage Tracking and Reporting Foodborne Disease Outbreaks reports that 48% of the outbreaks linked to a known single setting from 2009-2010 involved a restaurant or deli while 21% involved food consumed in a private home.  We suspect these numbers might be skewed since it is easier to trace a larger outbreak to its source.  Regardless, consumers have much greater control when it comes to home cooking.

Many people associate foodborne bacteria with hot summer months.  However, the CDC’s “It’s Turkey Time” page notes that most outbreaks of clostridium perfringens, the second most common source of bacterial food poisoning, occur in November and December.

Turkey Safety

For most of us, centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal is the turkey.  Some tips from the CDC and on turkey safety:

  • Thawing/Storage – Purchase fresh turkeys no more than two days before preparation. Frozen turkeys are safe, but be sure not to leave them out for too long, including during your shopping trip (pick it up last, unpack it first!), and thaw safely.  The danger zone is 40 to 140⁰F when bacteria present before freezing may start to grow.   A sub-page contains some more detailed tips on thawing.
  • Pre-Cooking Handling/Preparation – Do not wash the raw turkey; it spreads more bacteria than it eliminates! Use separate tools, including different cutting boards, for raw and cooked meats.  Thoroughly clean hands, utensils, and work surfaces after working with raw poultry to avoid bacteria transfer.
  • Cooking – Set the oven to a minimum of 325°F and begin cooking only after the turkey is fully thawed. The CDC recommend cooking breast-side up on a wire rack over a 2 to 2.5-inch-deep roasting pan.  Cooking times vary.  Test temperature using a food thermometer, ensuring it hits at least 165°F in the meaty part of the breast, thigh, and wing joint.  Let stand for 20 minutes before removing stuffing (if relevant) and carving.
  • Stuffing – The safest way to prepare stuffing is outside the turkey in its own dish. If you do stuff the turkey itself, do so immediately before cooking and use a food thermometer to make sure the center area reaches 165°F.

The Fixins’ and the Leftovers

Of course, turkey is only part of the story.  Although all foods have their own safety issues, here are some general tips on holiday sides from

  • Avoid Cross-Contamination — Keep side dish components separate and away from raw turkey. Good cleaning of utensils, hands, and surfaces is a must.
  • Washing — Thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables.
  • Cooking – Cook items completely, including cooking dishes containing eggs to at least 160°F.  Avoid partially cooking one day and finishing cooking another day, especially with multi-ingredient dishes like casseroles, because bacteria can multiply between cooking sessions even if the food is refrigerated. Resist the desire to taste foods before they are fully cooked (including that cookie dough!).
  • Meat/Poultry/Seafood — Take extra care with anything containing meat, even just crumbled bacon in a vegetable side. Cook meat, poultry, and shellfish to safe temperatures before adding them to a recipe.  Keep meat and/or cheese trays cold and make sure pre-assembled trays are refrigerated at the store.
  • Leftovers — For many, this is the best part of Thanksgiving! Refrigerate leftovers as soon as possible and at least within two hours of cooking.  Do not store stuffing in the turkey.  Transfer leftovers out of cookware to help decrease temperature and limit the time food is in the unsafe 40°F to 140°F range.  Be sure the fridge is set at 40°F or below and consume leftovers within 3 to 4 days.  “Doggy bags” travelling more than two hours should be packed in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs.

A Message from Our Team

At Thanksgiving and year-round, our San Francisco injury law firm gives thanks to everyone who helps make the Bay Area such a great place to live and work.  We give special thanks to all of our clients for trusting us to help them in some of the most trying times of their lives.  It is an honor to work with all of you.

We wish all of our readers a happy and safe Thanksgiving.

See Related Blog Posts:

Foodborne Illness Litigation: Examining the Law and Looking at a Shigella Outbreak in San Jose

Spotlight on Listeria as Retailers Pull Dips from Shelves Nationwide

(Image by Jennifer Gaillard)

From hard corners softened with cushions to outlets plugged with guards, parents spend hours making their homes safe for their children.  Still, even the most diligent parent can’t spot every potential danger in their own homes or in other places children visit.  That truth is one of many reasons we demand that companies produce and sell safe products, a demand backed up by California’s strict liability rules in product liability cases.  At The Brod Law Firm, a San Francisco child injury law firm, we believe in both prevention and accountability.  Today’s blog entry looks at a danger lurking in many buildings including children’s homes, child care centers, and the residences of relatives or other caregivers – window blind cords.  We encourage every parent to be alert for this danger, but we also believe the manufacturers should be held responsible when unnecessarily dangerous products harm our children.

ABC7 Reports on Strangulation Danger Despite Industry Standards

The threat of strangulation by window blind cords is not an unknown danger, but ABC7 recently investigated and found the danger remains despite industry standards intended to prevent child injury and child deaths.  According to the report, the government estimates that one child dies every month after being strangled by blind cords.  The news channel relays the story of one California toddler whose mother had tied the pull cord out of reach to protect blindsher children and then, one tragic day, found her son dangling from blinds near his crib.  Sixteen month old Jacob had gotten trapped in the inner cord of the window coverings.

Blind cords can kill in seconds and, as ABC7 notes, children are unable to cry for help, resulting in 405 strangulations in the past three decades despite the fact that the industry is aware of cord dangers.  The news report says that Elliot Kaye, chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”), is working to ban blinds with any form of accessible cords.  Although two retailers have already stopped selling such blinds and more have pledged to follow suit, the industry is pushing back.

State Assemblywoman Susan Eggman has also joined the fight, contesting what she claims is an effort by lobbyists to shift blame and stating strongly, “Parents are not to blame.”  Eggman introduced a bill earlier this year to ban blinds with dangerous cords from stores and daycare locations in California, but much of the bill has already been altered.  Eggman suggests the manufacturing industry, which disputes the strangulation numbers and says changes have made an impact, stopped the bill.  Both Eggman and the CPSC are continuing their mission.

Keeping Your Children Safe

A CPSC safety poster warns of the danger with the vivid and upsetting image of a doll’s throat caught in a blind cord.  The agency suggests three steps for parents to take to keep their children safe: 1) Examine window coverings for any exposed cords; 2) Use only cordless blinds in homes that young children live in or visit; 3) If parents cannot purchase cordless blinds, see the website of the Window Covering Safety Council (a coalition of industry players) for additional safety tips and order a free retrofit kit that can mitigate dangers.

Demanding Accountability through Product Liability Litigation

While we applaud the industry for forming a safety-oriented coalition, ABC’s report suggests it may not be enough.  Companies must be held accountable for dangerous products, especially when those products threaten children.  If your child has been hurt or killed because of a window blind cord or any other unnecessarily dangerous consumer product in Northern California, please call our product safety law firm in Oakland, San Francisco, or Santa Rosa.  We offer a free consultation and we are committed to fighting for our children and yours.

See Related Blog Posts:

Water Heater Fires: A Threat on All Our Minds

Northern California Child Injury Attorney Examines Rising Number of Bounce House Injuries

A Warning About the Danger of Falling Furniture from Our California Child Injury Law Office

(Image by Tiffany Terry)

It’s a story we’ve followed for years – problems that plagued the Bay Bridge construction project and continue to arise more than two years after the grand re-opening.  We hope that paying attention NOW helps prevent tragedy LATER, such as the frightening collapse of the previous span during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.  As a San Francisco construction defect injury law firm, we represent plaintiffs injured by construction defects, people for whom repairs come too late.  We hope our services are never needed for injuries tied to the Bay Bridge construction (or any other project, for that matter), but when shoddy workmanship on a home, road, or any other manmade structure leads to injuries anywhere in Northern California we are here to help.

More Defects Found in Bay Bridge Components

baybridgeAccording to the San Francisco Chronicle, new documents are raising new concerns about the integrity of steel rods used in the eastern span of the Bay Bridge.  The newly released report includes statements from an independent engineer suggesting that previously discovered micro-cracks caused by water exposure are present in parts of the span far from where issues were first discovered.  Cracking could, per experts, lead to failure.  The report is part of a $20 million testing program undertaken after flooded sleeves caused cracking and, in one case, failure of tower rods.

The Chronicle reports that Caltrans concedes it failed to inspect the 2,000-plus rods to ensure they met industry standards.  Per the project’s chief engineer, “It looks like we didn’t do the quality assurance we were supposed to do.”  The report suggests that Caltrans believes the rods will not cause any major problems, but some experts disagree and are raising the alarm.  Additional problems in connecting threads have also been uncovered.  The Chronicle article details problems with cables, tower rods, bridge decks, and leaks that have plagued the$6.4 billion project.

California Construction Defect Litigation: General Requirements

We hope that discovering problems before an accident helps prevent any injuries or loss of life due to construction defects on the Bay Bridge.  Bridges are certainly not the only structure susceptible to construction defects; they can occur in almost any manmade structure from homes to highways.  When defects lead to injuries, the victims can and should seek compensation from those at fault.  In some cases, a strict liability product defect framework applies.  Other cases proceed under a typical negligence framework requiring the victim to prove that: 1) The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care; 2) The defendant did not meet that standard; and 3) That failure caused harm to the plaintiff.  Importantly, in order to be actionable, the injuries stemming from a defect must be reasonably foreseen.

For this blog entry, our inquiry is focused on cases involving actual injuries or fatalities.  However, it is worth noting that California has a legal framework for addressing residential defects prior to an actual injury.  While Civil Code 895 et. seq. provides an exclusive remedy in those matters, it does not bar other actions when an injury has occurred.

Construction Defect Litigation: Standard of Care

California plaintiffs must specifically establish the standard of care in construction defect cases via expert testimony.  Courts often look for a failure to meet building code requirements or more general professional standards.  Contractors and subcontractors are generally liable for ordinary negligence and must perform work in a good and workmanlike manner that complies with all contractual duties and is sufficiently free from defects.  In contrast, architects and engineers must meet a higher professional standard of care (see Civil Jury Instruction 600).  This higher standard means acts are judged against the skill and care of an ordinary member of the profession under similar conditions.  General contractors are typically responsible for the acts of a subcontractor.

A San Francisco/Oakland/Santa Rosa Lawyer for Construction Defect Cases

If you were injured or lost a family member because of a construction defect in a bridge or any other structure in the Northern California region, call our defective construction lawyer in San Francisco.  Attorney Brod is committed to helping victims recover needed funds in San Francisco defective road lawsuits and similar actions throughout Northern California, including cases against government and private parties.  Call to arrange a free consultation.

See Related Blog Posts:

Building Defects and Design Defects: Key Forms of Construction Defect Injury Claims in California

Bridge Safety Lawyer Comments on Bridge Collapses as Caltrans Announces Another Problem on Bay Bridge

(Image by Edward Stojakovic)

ecoliWhether it’s to celebrate a special event, a way to spend time with someone you love, an opportunity to get to know someone new, or simply a chance to give the kitchen (and the family chef”) the night off, Americans love dining out.  Restaurants can tantalize the taste buds with something new while connecting with our companions or with ourselves.   Thanks in part to a network of health-related laws and regulations, dining out is usually a safe experience and typically the biggest health risk lies in overindulging.  However, on occasion a restaurant meal leaves diners dealing with a foodborne illness, including conditions that can be fatal.  When a meal out in Northern California leaves a patron ill, especially when the illness is serious, our San Francisco restaurant lawyer can help.

Shigella Outbreak Traced to San Jose Restaurant

As of Wednesday, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, officials had identified more than 80 people who were sickened by a bacterial infection after eating at a San Jose restaurant.  After numerous people sought treatment at area hospitals last weekend, doctors and investigators concluded they were dealing with an outbreak of shigella and traced the bacteria to a suspected source, a Mexican seafood restaurant in downtown San Jose.  All of the infected patients had dined at the establishment on Friday or Saturday.   Of the 80 plus people believed to have been sickened by the outbreak, testing has confirmed that 15 have the shigella bacteria.  Twelve patients required treatment in intensive care.  The restaurant is closed while the investigation continues.

Shigella and Shigellosis

According to the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”), there are four different species of shigella, the bacteria that causes shigellosis and is implicated in approximately 500,000 cases of diarrhea in the U.S. each year.  Shigella is very contagious and transmitted when people consume or otherwise come into oral contact with even a tiny amount of infected fecal matter.  The CDC says shigella infection can occur in several ways including via food that has been contaminated by food handlers or in the growing process.  Symptoms usually arise one or two days after exposure and may include diarrhea (possibly bloody), abdominal pain, and fever.  Although a mild infection may resolve on its own, antibiotics may be needed in more severe cases.  Antibiotic resistance is a problem with shigella and doctors may perform cultures to determine which antibiotics are most likely to successfully treat the condition.

Foodborne Illness Generally

Looking at foodborne illnesses more generally, the CDC reports that 1 in 6 people in the Uni
ted States contracts some form of food poisoning each year.  While most of those 48 million people experience relatively mild symptoms, approximately 128,000 people are hospitalized 3,000 die annually due to foodb
orne illness.  Bacteria can be introduced at various points in the food production process including via watering with water that contains animal fecal matter, by a food handler/service worker with unwashed hands, through the re-use of contaminated utensils or other food preparation equipment, and by cross-contamination from another food item.

Foodborne Illness Lawsuits and a Northern California Foodborne Illness Lawyer

Typically, a foodborne illness lawsuit relies on a defective products claim.  To win via this strict liability theory, a plaintiff usually needs to show that the food consumed was contaminated and that this contamination caused the plaintiff’s illness.  The plaintiff does not need to show the defendant was careless.  Negligence claims may also be brought, but these do require proof that the defendant did not exercise reasonable care.  In some cases, a breach of warranty claim may be appropriate.  Similar claims may be made via wrongful death litigation.

Defective product defendants can include parties at various points in the food distribution process including the manufacturer and seller.  Ultimately, the plaintiff will also need to show the amount of damages incurred including physical, economic, and mental/emotional injury.  In the case of a large outbreak, a class action might be appropriate and may be helpful in cases where the amount of damages is fairly low.

While the law is relatively straightforward as to what needs to be proven, actually proving contamination and causation can be difficult.  People who are made seriously ill by food and/or their families should contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible in order to preserve evidence and ensure all claims are timely.  With nearly thirty years of legal experience advocating on behalf of the injured and grieving, Attorney Greg Brod is a knowledgeable San Francisco foodborne illness lawyer with additional offices in Oakland and Santa Rosa.  Our firm would be honored to help you.

See Related Blog Posts:

Contaminated Water and the Threat of Waterborne Illness

Sonoma Food Poisoning Lawyer on Food Safety Law and Allegations of Arsenic in Wine

(Image of e. coli bacteria by James Joel)


The days of “PB&J” as a school lunch staple are gone in many areas.  Policies limiting the presence of peanuts are just one result of a startling rise in food allergies.  For many sufferers, food allergies go far beyond a tingly mouth or upset stomach.  Food allergies can be deadly making accurate labeling and attention to detail throughout the food industry incredibly important.  Food allergy litigation is a developing field and our San Francisco food allergy lawyer is prepared to advocate for people and families who have faced a serious allergic reaction because of inaccurate labeling, careless food preparation, or other negligent food handling and/or preparation practices.

Massive Cheerios Recall Due to Presence of Allergen

This week, perhaps the biggest name in cereal went from the shelves to the headlines as General Mills recalled 1.8 million boxes of regular and Honey Nut Cheerios.  NBC Bay Area reports that the recalled cereal, which was produced in July at a Lodi, California facility, is labelled “gluten-free” but contains wheat.  General Mills says wheat flour, which contains gluten, was inadvertently used instead of gluten-free oat flour.  Consuming gluten can cause an allergic reaction or discomfort for people with celiac disease, wheat allergies, or other health issues.  General Mills is pulling affected cereals from stores and warehouses.  Customers who purchased the affected cereals and are unable to eat wheat can contact General Mills for a replacement or a refund.

Food Allergies on the Rise

An allergy is a hypersensitivity disorder where the immune system reacts to a substance normally considered harmless.  Food allergies are more serious than milder (and more common) food intolerances.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, food allergies among those aged 17 years and younger increased from 3.4% in 1997-1999 to 5.1% in 2009-2011.  Notably, there was not a corresponding significant change in the prevalence of general respiratory allergies.  A report from Massachusetts General Hospital notes that, while attention has focused on children, some 9 million adults (4% of the U.S. population) suffer from food allergies.

Early detection and intervention is critical since some food allergies can cause life-threatening anaphylaxis.  The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology states that 38.7% of children with food allergies have experienced a severe allergic reaction to a food with peanuts being the most common allergen followed by milk and shellfish.

Food Allergies and the Law: Liability for Allergen Exposure

In 2004, Congress passed the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act.  The law requires food labels to disclose the presence of eight common allergens: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, and soy.  The Act also calls for a study aimed at developing allergen rules for food service establishments.

  • Labelled Foods

In general, liability for exposure to a food allergen can be divided into two categories based on whether the potential defendant is a food manufacturer or a food service establishment (e.g., restaurant, school, nursing home, etc.).  Suits against food manufacturers are often based on a failure to warn claim.  Civil Jury Instruction 1206 provides that to establish such a claim a plaintiff must show all of the following (quoting):

“1. That [name of defendant] [manufactured/distributed/sold] the [product];

  1. That a substantial number of people are allergic to an ingredient in the [product];
  2. That the danger of the ingredient is not generally known, or, if known, the ingredient is one that a consumer would not reasonably expect to find in the [product];
  3. That [name of defendant] knew or, by the use of scientific knowledge available at the time, should have known of the ingredient’s danger and presence;
  4. That [name of defendant] failed to provide sufficient warnings concerning the ingredient’s danger or presence;
  5. That [name of plaintiff] was harmed; and
  6. That the lack of sufficient warnings was a substantial factor in causing [name of plaintiff]’s harm.”

Additional claims may exist based on negligence or other legal theories, but the foregoing claim is particularly important since it is a strict liability offense making it much easier to prove.

  • Food Service Establishments

The second category of cases involves exposure in a restaurant or other food service establishment.  In order to be liable for an allergic reaction a restaurant must have provided misleading/inaccurate information or have notice of a patron’s allergy.  For example, liability might exist if exposure occurs despite: 1) A menu (inaccurately) indicating a food is free of certain ingredients; 2) A restaurant undertakes food preparation despite specific notice of a customer’s allergy; or 3) A nursing home knows a patient has food allergies.

  • Proving the Claim

If a reaction occurs, it is advisable to retain a sample of the food.  This can make proving liability much easier.  In addition to liability, the plaintiff will need to show damages.  As in other injury suits, this can include medical bills, lost income, and compensation for pain and suffering.  In the case of a fatal reaction, a wrongful death claim may exist in place of a personal injury action.

A Law Firm for Allergen Exposure Cases

If you or a loved one suffered an allergy due to the negligence of anyone in the food industry, call our Northern California food allergy law firm to arrange a free consultation.  This is an evolving field of law made ever-more important by the growing prevalence of food allergies.  Companies and individuals in the food industry must take care to consider food allergy concerns – it could be a matter of life and death.

See Related Blog Posts:

Sonoma Food Poisoning Lawyer on Food Safety Law and Allegations of Arsenic in Wine

Long-Term Health Dangers of Pesticides Felt from Farm to Homes

San Francisco-Oakland Injury Attorney Comments on Sever Reactions to Over the Counter Drugs



Yes, this is a post about extreme sports and if you’ve arrived at our blog looking for information about extreme sports injuries and California law, you’ll find that.  However, this post is also relevant to those who prefer simpler thrills.  The California injury law principles we discuss in today’s blog entry apply when a person is injured in any type of recreational activity from cliff-diving to Pee-Wee soccer.  Developed over many decades, these principles even apply to newly popular activities like the fast-growing arena of adult obstacle course races.  In this first of two parts, our San Francisco sports injury law firm looks at civil claims that can arise as a result of recreational injuries.  Next week, we will continue with a look at some of the most common defenses to these claims and how those defenses can be overcome.

Famed Extreme Athlete Dies in Skydiving Accident

A stunt display planned as part of the kickoff to a golf tournament in Squaw Valley took a tragic turn on Monday.  The Press Democrat reports that while two other skydivers landed safely on the greens 39-year-old extreme athlete Erik Roner fell hard and crash landed into a tree.  Roner’s parachute became tangled, leaving him dangling some 25 to 30 feet above ground.  People on the scene scrambled to help, even attempting to form a human ladder to reach Roner, but he passed away before they could succeed.  According to a fellow athlete who spoke with the paper, there was no protocol for attempting the type of rescue needed.  Given the nature of the accident, the Federal Aviation Administration is conducting an investigation.  Roner was a famed extreme athlete known for BASE jumping and his MTV appearances in addition to his skydiving prowess.

The Evolving World of Extreme Sportsmudrace2

While many think of extreme sports as a new phenomenon, they have been around in one form or another for centuries.  An article on extreme sports in the online version of the American Bar Association Journal cites gladiator matches in Ancient Rome as the historical equivalent of today’s high-risk sports.  Some sports once deemed extreme have become more mainstream, for example, marathon running.  At the same time as certain extreme sports are exploding, the ABA Journal article notes, there has also been a rise in “functional fitness” activities, such as Cross-Fit, and activities that bridge the two arenas like the increasingly-popular field of obstacle courses.

Recreational Injury Claims

Whether a person is injured in an extreme sport or a more “everyday” recreational activity, the same legal principles come into play.  Some of the claims most likely to arise in sports injury litigation include:

  • Negligence – The core of most personal injury litigation, negligence is the failure to exercise the reasonable level of care that an ordinary person would use under similar circumstances. A negligence claim might arise from allowing too many racers to participate in order to maximize profits despite the course being insufficient to handle the numbers.
  • Gross Negligence – This is, in essence, a more extreme form of negligence involving a major departure from reasonable care. In the extreme sports world, gross negligence might apply if the defendant purposefully made an activity more dangerous like hiding unannounced obstacles in a mud pit on a race course.
  • Product Liability – Product liability claims apply when sporting equipment is unsafe, such as a parachute that does not operate properly. Product defect claims are strict liability, meaning intent is irrelevant, and they cannot be waived.

Looking Ahead: Defenses

Next week, we will look at some defenses that are often asserted in recreational injury cases, including the doctrine of assumption of risk and the use of express waivers.  These defenses are powerful, but they can be defeated.

A Northern California Recreational Injury Lawyer

From acting as a San Francisco extreme sports injury lawyer to serving as a Northern California obstacle course injury lawyer in Sonoma and helping families as an Oakland children’s sports injury attorney, Gregory Brod understands California law and he has the expertise to help the wrongfully injured and/or their families recover the compensation they deserve.  Call or contact us using the form to the left to arrange a no-cost consultation.

See Related Blog Posts:

Northern California Football Injury Lawyer Looks at Growing Evidence of Football-Related Brain Injury

San Francisco Sports and Recreation Attorney Looks at Wave of Hang-Gliding Deaths in 2015

(photo by Kevin Cortopassi of Tough Mudder race obstacle)

We hear it even before we enter kindergarten: smoking is hazardous to your health.  Typically, this refers to the risk of inhaling harmful chemicals, but other hazards exist.  Cigarette fires are one of these dangers.  They are particularly worrisome in light of the dangerous conditions that have made fires a constant concern for Californians and therefore a constant concern for our legal team.  Our Santa Rosa burn injury attorney has the experience and knowledge necessary to advocate for people wrongfully injured in fires sparked by cigarettes.  (Note: “Cigarette fires,” “smoking-material fires,” and similar phrases refer to fires caused by any form of smoking materials, but do not include fires sparked by lighting implements like matches or cigarette lighters.)

Tossed Cigarette Sparks Grass Fire

Last week, the Press Democrat reported on a fire that consumed a quarter-acre grass lot in Santa Rosa, a blaze investigators blame on a tossed cigarette.  The fire occurred shortly before 7 P.M. on Tuesday September 8 near Santa Rosa Avenue and East Robles Avenue.  Thankfully, firefighters quickly gained control, stopping flames just 50 feet from a business.

Police report that a 36-year-old Santa Rosa woman admitted to tossing a cigarette into the grass.  She said she thought the cigarette had been extinguished.  When the grass caught aflame, she and a companion tried unsuccessfully to douse the fire.  Police stopped the woman as she began to leave the scene.  She was arrested on suspicion of starting a fire and an alcohol-related probation violation and held on $10,000 bail.

Smoking-Material Fires: Statistics and Trends

cigarette2Unfortunately, cigarette fires are far from unusual and often result in greater tragedy than burnt grass.  In July 2013, the National Fire Protection Association (“NFPA”) released a study entitled “The Smoking-Material Fire Problem.”  Per the report, U.S. fire departments responded to some 90,000 smoking-material fires in 2011, a figure little changed from the 90,800 smoking-material fires the year before.  The 2011 cigarette fires are blamed for 540 civilian deaths, a substantial drop from 610 civilian smoking-fire deaths in 2010.  Additionally, the report says that smoking-related fires injured 1,640 civilians in 2011 and caused $621 million in direct property damage.

The good news: there has been a “long-term trend” of fewer and fewer smoking-material fires.  Table1b shows a marked decline in civilian deaths in smoking-related fires from 1,950 in 1980 and 2,210 in 1981 to the 540 in 2011.  The NFPA’s report attributes the drop to a decreased number of smokers, regulations requiring mattresses and other furniture be increasingly resistant to cigarette ignition, and nationwide rules mandating cigarettes be “fire-safe” (i.e. reduced ignition strength making them less likely to start a fire).

We are heartened by these trends, but remain concerned about those who continue to be injured and killed because of smoking-material fires.  Each injury, each death, is one too many.  Notably, the report finds one-quarter of those killed in smoking-material fires were not the person who smoked the at-issue cigarette and nearly half (46%) of those who died in home smoking-material fires were aged 65 or older.  The latter figure is particularly concerning given that people 65 and older comprise only 13% of the population and older people are less likely to smoke than younger individuals.

Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Claims Following Cigarette Fires

What should you do if you are injured or lose a close family member in a smoking-material fire?  First, obtain any needed medical treatment.  Next, contact legal counsel as soon as possible to avoid the loss of physical evidence, problems with fading memories, and time limits on filing claims.  In addition to potential claims against the person who improperly disposed of the materials, other claims may exist such as claims against a cigarette manufacturer that did not comply with fire safety requirements, landlord/tenant claims if the injury occurred in a rental property that lacked appropriate fire safety equipment, product safety claims related to mattress/furniture flammability, and/or claims against others whose negligence contributed to the fire and/or your injuries.

Attorney Brod serves as a fire injury lawyer in Santa Rosa and throughout Northern California.  Independently and in conjunction with experts, he thoroughly investigates each case to determine all potential legal claims.  Call to arrange a personal consultation.

See Related Blog Posts:

When People Cause Wildfires: California Fire Injury Attorney on a Growing Threat

Oakland Apartment Fire Attorney on Civilian Deaths in Residential Fires

(Image by Nadia Hatoum; Note: No connection exists between pictured cigarette and fire issues discussed in post.)

Wildfires continue to dominate the headlines in California and throughout our region.  For some, fires are a hard-to-watch story on the news.  For others, they are a very present danger, a threat to property and well-being.  Some wildfires are sparked by nature, but others are manmade.  Our San Francisco fire injury lawyer represents people who are injured or suffer the loss of a relative because of a manmade fire.  Attorney Brod and his team also use this blog to provide information that we hope helps prevent future tragedies.  Today’s topic is fresh from the headlines — water heater fires.

Water Heater Blamed for Massive Fire

On Wednesday, officials with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (“Cal Fire”) identified a faulty water heater located in an outbuilding as a significant factor causing one of our region’s massive fires.  According to the Napa Valley Register, Cal Fire representatives said the gas water heater sparked one of two fires that eventually became the Rocky Fire.  Flammable liquids in the outbuilding caught fire and then the blaze spread to nearby vegetation.  The Rocky Fire consumed almost 70,000 acres, caused the evacuation of 13,000 residents, and destroyed 43 homes before it was contained late last week.  Officials are still looking into the circumstances surrounding the fire and working to identify the cause of the second fire that became part of the Rocky Fire.

Other Water Heater Fires in the News

Water heaters are known to be a potential fire hazard, especially when flammable materials are stored in the vicinity.  In July, a San Antonio house fire began when a man was attempting to repair a water heater using spray-on foam.  My San Antonio reported that the man suffered minor burns.  In May, CBS affiliate WREG covered a house fire in Tennessee that investigators traced to a water heater.  Flames spread to the attic and the rest of the home.  A volunteer firefighter living in the home saved the lives of his own and the family was okay aside from a minor burn to the son’s face.  A family in Ghana was not as lucky.  According to Graphic Online, two children died earlier this week in a house fire.  While the cause has not been officially determined at the time of this writing, neighbors suggest that two water heaters may have been to blame.

The Details & Prevention Tips

waterheaterDo-it-yourself website The Family Handyman lists appliances, including water heaters and clothes dryers, among its Big 7 list of common causes of preventable home fires.  According to the site, lint in dryers and combustible materials stored near gas water heaters are the leading culprits of appliance fires which account for 7% of home fires and 4% of home fire deaths (stoves and heaters are in a separate category).  While that sounds like a small percentage, it is anything but small to those impacted by these fires.

The website suggests marking off and maintaining a three-foot “combustible free” zone around a water heater.  Other causes of water heater fires include defective equipment and installation/maintenance problems.  Always hire professionals, the cost is nothing compared to what you risk.

Fire Liability & Compensation 

When a fire is caused by the negligent or willful acts of an individual or corporate entity, the injured have a right to compensation via a civil claim.  A civil suit involving such a fire might include negligence, product liability, premises liability, and even landlord/tenant principles.  The Brod Law Firm is experienced in all these fields and is honored to help fire victims recover the money they are due.  We have offices for our fire injury law firm in Santa Rosa, San Francisco, and Oakland to serve those injured by fire and/or smoke throughout Northern California.

We will continue to watch news reports and talk to people affected by this year’s wildfires.  We hope the fires stop forming and that the firefighters gain the upper-hand on those currently burning.  Our thoughts are with everyone impacted by these terrible blazes.

See Related Blog Posts:

A Discussion of Electrical Fires from Your Santa Rosa Fire Injury Law Firm

When People Cause Wildfires: California Fire Injury Attorney on a Growing Threat

(Image by Shannon Prickett)

powerlinesEvery day the news seems to get more and more frightening as wildfires consume so much of our lovely state.  Our thoughts are with those who’ve been impacted by the fires and our thanks go out to all the men and women working to keep Californians safe and limit property damage.  While wildfires are, with good reason, the top fire-related headline at the moment, it is important to remember that other types of fires are always a concern.  As people in Guerneville and the surrounding areas were reminded this week, electrical fires are a real threat.  When an electrical fire causes injuries or death and the blaze can be traced to the negligence or wrongdoing of a person or entity, our Santa Rosa fire injury lawyer is prepared to fight for those affected using civil personal injury and/or wrongful death law.

Blaze that Consumed Shop in Guerneville Blamed on Electrical Transformer

The Press Democrat reports that a fire destroyed much of the Odd Fellows Recreation Club’s store located on the 13500 block of Riverside Drive.  The store is part of Odd Fellows Park, a private, limited-admission facility east of Guerneville encompassing 317 acres with campsites and a Russian River beach.  Fire broke out around 9:30 P.M. on Tuesday night and by 11 P.M. flames had gutted much of the structure.  Firefighters from at least seven fire agencies worked to extinguish the blaze which may have been ignited by a blown electrical transformer.  The paper does not mention any injuries, although it does not specifically state no injuries occurred.

Electrical Fire Statistics

In a 2013 report, the National Fire Protection Association indicates that approximately 47,700 home structure fires and 16,400 non-home structure fires reported to fire departments in the U.S. during 2011 involved an electrical failure or malfunction contributing to ignition.  Taken together, residential and non-residential electrical fires claimed the lives of 431 civilians and injured 1,813 civilians in 2011.  These numbers do not include fires where electrical equipment only provided the heat that led to ignition such as where a hot iron caused flammable fabric to ignite.  Fires involving an electrical failure or malfunction represent 74% of all home structure fires involving electrical or lighting equipment.

When equipment as a heat source is included, electrical distribution and lighting equipment were the fourth leading cause of home structure fires from 2007 to 2011.  Including electrical equipment as a heat source, the items that sparked the most home structure electrical fires in the 2007-2011 timeframe were: Wiring and related equipment (63%); Cords and plugs (11%); and Transformers and other power supplies (6%).  Interestingly, while cords and plugs accounted for 11% of home electrical distribution or lighting equipment fires, they were linked to 30% of civilian deaths and 21% of civilian injuries.

Accountability & Compensation

At the Brod Law Firm, we represent people injured in electrical fires and other blazes that can be traced to someone else’s negligent or wrongful acts.  Examples might include a fire that started because of a shoddy repair job on an electric generator or a fire that started because a landlord failed to respond to tenant complaints about a frayed wire in a common area.  These cases can involve traditional negligence theories and can also involve landlord/tenant law, product liability and premises liability principles.

If you have been injured or lost a close family member in an electrical fire or other blaze and you believe someone else is to blame, call us at (800) 427-7020 to discuss your legal rights.  Our Northern California fire injury attorney has offices in Sonoma County, San Francisco, and Oakland to serve your legal needs.

See Related Blog Posts:

When People Cause Wildfires: California Fire Injury Attorney on a Growing Threat

The Threat of Home Electrical Fires

(Image by Rachel Kramer)