American Museum Of Tort Law Reopens, Including Exhibit Paying Tribute To The Pioneering Work Of Edward M. Swartz

Famed consumer protection advocate Ralph Nader first conceived of a museum honoring tort law in the late 1990s. Last fall, after a fundraising effort, the museum opened its doors in Nader’s hometown of Winsted, Connecticut.

The American Museum of Tort Law hosted private tours during this past winter, and is now reopening to the public with its Great Spring Reawakening. The hall is designed as a tangible educational institution, with a goal of reminding the public of the importance of the jury system and the need to play an active role in it. The exhibits have been well received by thousands of visitors to date.

One popular exhibit pays tribute to the work of the late Boston lawyer Edward M. Swartz, the founder of Swartz & Swartz, P.C. Swartz was a pioneer in the field of product liability law, and is well known for his advocacy on behalf of children and toy safety. His efforts include the writing of many books for the legal practitioner and consumers, the annual “10 Worst Toys” list, and formation of the non-profit group World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc. (WATCH).

The museum seeks to increase citizen understanding of Tort Law – the law of wrongful injury – and the role it plays in protecting personal freedom, health and safety through the American civil justice system.

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Investigation Of Deadly Ammonia Leak At Boston Warehouse Raises Safety Questions

A man died on the night of Wednesday, March 23rd as the result of a large ammonia leak in a warehouse operated by Stavis Seafoods in Boston’s Seaport District. The fatality involved a worker, one of several on site at the time. The city’s homicide unit, as well as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), were investigating the cause of the leak.

Ammonia is used at the facility for the transportation of fish. Authorities indicated that there was about 5,400 pounds of ammonia in the tank that connects to the building’s pipeline.

The South Boston seafood company where a worker died was reportedly issued thousands of dollars in fines by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) for serious violations related to how it dealt with ammonia in the facility’s refrigeration system. For example, in August 2009, the company was issued $47,250 in fines for 15 separate serious violations, chiefly in its process safety management program. The case was closed in November 2009. Serious citations mean that death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards the employer knew about or should have known about, according to OSHA.

Workplace safety always must be the primary concern for employers and facility owners, especially when dangerous chemicals or conditions are present. Thousands of workers hurt on the job every year, and many injuries are the result of contractors’ and management’s failure to maintain a safe jobsite. Some of these injuries are the result of defective equipment. Other injuries are the result of carelessness or negligence on the part of a general contractor or subcontractor, for example failing to properly inspect the jobsite, failing to provide safe machinery or tools, or failing to provide workers with adequate fall protection equipment.

Management must ensure that its work environment is fully in compliance with all OSHA regulations, and even exceeds such federal safety requirements when the lives of workers are at stake.

By James A. Swartz of Swartz & Swartz P.C.Permalink

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Takata’s Faulty Airbags Still Exact Toll as Recalls Lag

Joel Knight, a 52-year-old welder of South Carolina, was injured by the shrapnel from the Ford Ranger airbag, which punctured his neck with so much force that investigators initially thought a fatal shooting had occurred. Mr. Knight hit a stray cow while he was driving on a South Carolina highway. A metal chunk hurtled out from his ruptured airbag and punched a one-inch hole in his neck, breaking his vertebra. He also had wounds on his right arm which show that he tried to brace himself from the airbag before he died. Mr. Knight bled to death, not ever knowing that the airbag in his truck had posed a risk.

His airbag had been manufactured by Takata, the Japanese supplier whose faulty airbags have been linked to 10 deaths and more than 100 injuries. Unfortunately, Mr. Knight was not aware that the airbag had been recalled.

Tens of millions of people drive vehicles that may pose a lethal danger but have not been repaired or, as in Mr. Knight’s case, have not even been recalled. Since 2000, Takata has sold as many as 54 million metal “inflaters” in the United States containing ammonium nitrate, an explosive compound that regulators believe is at the center of the problem, according to an estimate by Valient Market Research and provided to The New York Times. About 28 million inflaters in 24 million vehicles have been recalled. Of the 28 million recalled inflaters, only about 30 percent have been repaired. The rest of the inflaters, about 26 million, have not been recalled.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has stepped up its scrutiny of the problem, after a series of missteps over nearly a decade, but has stopped short of an immediate recall of all Takata airbags containing the compound. The safety agency, which has barred Takata from using ammonium nitrate for new orders, has given the supplier until the end of 2018 to prove that ammonium nitrate is safe in existing airbags. And Takata has even longer, until the end of 2019, to show that inflaters with a more advanced version of the compound are safe.

Swartz & Swartz, P.C. has assisted many families over the years whose lives have been tragically and forever altered as the result of a significant personal injury or wrongful death due to a car accident or automobile defect. If you would like to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney at Swartz & Swartz, P.C., please contact us. You can call us at (617) 742-1900, or if you are outside the Boston area, call toll-free at 1-800-545-3732.

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Safety Concerns Raised Regarding Surgical Warming Blankets

A product designed to prevent hypothermia during and after surgery is currently under scrutiny for potential safety hazards, especially when used for hip and knee implant surgeries. Surgical warming blankets, also known as forced-air warming (FAW) blankets, are used to filter and heat air which is then forced beneath a disposable blanket covering all or part of a patient’s body. The blankets are designed to help maintain body temperature and avoid hypothermia. Bair Hugger, manufactured by 3M and Arizant, is a type of FAW system that has been widely used in orthopedic surgeries since the mid-2000s. Unfortunately, Bair Hugger is the subject of several claims which allege that the product caused contamination in the operating room, reportedly leading to serious post-surgical infections with prolonged consequences.

The primary alleged concern associated with the design of FAW blankets is that they can cause heightened bacteria growth and risk of infection, particularly given the disruption of ventilated airflow in the operating room. Operating rooms have specific airflow controls that are designed to expel airborne pathogens and prevent them from reaching the patient. Ventilated air is pushed down from the ceiling toward the operation site and then outward toward the edges of the room. The air currents then flow back up toward the ceiling where they are again ventilated. This airflow creates a curtain of ventilated air around the operation site that helps prevent contaminated air from reaching the patient. The forced air from these warming blankets has been shown in several studies to disrupt the room’s airflow and therefore risk patient contamination.

Although the warm air being forced under the blanket is ventilated, the warm air escapes from under the blanket and flows toward the floor. Studies have shown that this released air creates turbulence in the operation room’s airflow system, causing the contaminated warm air, or “waste heat”, to flow back toward the patient rather than outward and toward the ceiling. When the waste heat is directed toward the patient, the presence of contaminated particles and increased temperature causes bacteria to accumulate that can cause infection.

The greatest concern for infection is with hip and knee implant and replacement surgeries, which by nature involve a high degree of risk for contamination. Post-surgical bacterial infections can lead to more serious, life-threatening complications, and often result in numerous, even redundant, surgeries and prolonged medical treatment. Orthopedic complications specifically impact the future mobility of patients as well.

Lawsuits against the Bair Hugger FAW systems claim that the manufacturers have failed to warn physicians of the potential harms the blankets can cause and that they misleadingly market the blankets as safe to use during surgeries. Many physicians, and even the original inventor of the Bair Hugger FAW system, have called for a halt in the use of these blankets, at least until further studies have been performed or the alleged defects are remedied. Despite these claims, to date there have been no perceivable efforts to modify the defective design of the blankets or widespread prevention of their use in hospitals.

If you or a family member has questions about a defective product, or negligence in the design or manufacture of a surgical warming blanket or other medical device, contact the law office of Swartz & Swartz, P.C. by email at attorney@swartzlaw.com, or call (617) 742-1900 in the Boston area, or toll-free at 1-800-545-3732 in greater Massachusetts, New England, or other states across the U.S.

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Government Issues Statement Regarding Hoverboard Safety

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recently issued a statement regarding hoverbaord safety, as concerns grow amid reports of some models catching fire unexpectedly The CPSC, as well as consumer advocates, are working to determine the root cause of the fire hazard, how much of a risk it might present, and to provide consumers with answers exoeditiously.

Unfortunately, at present, there is no clear answer as to whether certain hoverboards purchased this holiday season have safety defects. It appears that purchasers and users have effectively become unknowing participants in an expansive post-market testing lab, where the next potential tragedy is lurking. This approach is unacceptable. Regulators must move quickly to ensure that proper premarket testing is in place, to prevent defective products from reaching the shelves. Keep in mind that there is no safety standard in place for hoverboards.

Manufacturers must take the lead in designing and manufacturing safe products for consumers, including young children.

The fire hazard has, understandably, generated the most attention. The government, however, is also advising consumers that it has received dozens of reports of injuries from hospital ERs relating to fall injuries, including concussions, fractures, contusions/abrasions, and internal organ injuries. Always wear a proper helmet and padding while using these, or any wheeled or propelled product such as bikes, scooters, in-line skates, and skateboards.

We advise that consumers do not purchase or use hoverboards at this time, given the current safety concerns. The government has issued “tips” regarding the use of these products, including but not limited to:

• Do not charge a hoverboard overnight or when you are not able to observe the board.
• Charge and store in an open dry area away from combustibles (meaning items that can catch fire).
• Do not charge directly after riding. Let the device cool for an hour before charging.
• If giving a hoverboard to someone for the holidays, leave it in its partially charged state. Do not take it out of the package to bring it to a full charge and then wrap it back up. Often, the product comes partially charged. Leave it in that state until it is ready to be used.

Other tips can be found at http://www.cpsc.gov/en/About-CPSC/Chairman/Kaye-Biography/Chairman-Kayes-Statements/Statements/Statement-from-the-US-CPSC-Chairman-Elliot-F-Kaye-on-the-safety-of-hoverboards. If you or your loved ones have questions about hoverboards, please contact an attorney at Swartz & Swartz, P.C. We will answer any questions you may have. Call (617) 742-1900 in the Boston area, or in greater Massachusetts, New England, or other states across the U.S., call toll-free at 1-800-545-3732.

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Government Continues To Sound The Alarm About Bean Bag Chair Recall

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), along with distributor Ace Bayou, has again issued an alert regarding the voluntary recall of about 2.2 million bean bag chairs sold from 1995 to 2013. So far, only 790 purchasers have responded to the recall, which highlights the importance of preventing hazardous products from entering the streams of commerce in the first instance. Recalls, while important, are not foolproof, and do not lead to the recovery of all defective products.

There is a continuing concern that these recalled bean bag chairs are still being used by children. The foam beads inside the chairs are serious suffocation and choking hazards for children. Two children died after suffocating on the chair’s foam beads. An additional incident has been reported to CPSC involving a 6 year old boy who opened bean bag and reportedly swallowed some foam beads and had others in his nose and mouth. The two deaths involved a 13-year old boy from McKinney, Texas died and a 3-year-old girl from Lexington, Ky. who suffocated from lack of air and inhaling the chair’s foam beads. Both children were found inside the chairs.

According to the CPSC, the recalled bean bag chairs were sold at Bergner’s, Big Lots, Bon-Ton, Boston Store, Carson’s, Elder-Beerman, Herberger’s, Meijer, Pamida, School Specialty, Wayfair, Walmart and Younkers stores and online at Amazon.com, Meijer.com, Walmart.com and other websites from 1995 to 2013 for between $30 and $100.

Designers and manufacturers have a responsibility to ensure that their products can be safely used in foreseeable home environments. Even when a product is not sold or marketed as a toy or children’s product, if it will foreseeably be used in a home with small children, it must be sold with the appropriate cautions and warnings, and most importantly, with design safeguards to prevent the needless and tragic loss of life.

If you or a family member has questions about a defective product or negligence in the design or manufacture of a bean bag chair or children’s product, contact the law office of Swartz & Swartz, P.C. Call (617) 742-1900 in the Boston area, or call us toll-free at 1-800-545-3732 in greater Massachusetts, New England, or other states across the U.S.

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Article: Crib Bumpers Can Cause Infant Deaths

According to a recent article in the Journal of Pediatrics, the number of babies who have died as a result of the use of crib bumpers has tripled in the last seven years data has been available. The authors, all medical doctors, have looked at infant deaths since 1985.

Between 1985 and 2012, bumpers possibly were involved in 77 deaths, according to a study running in the latest edition of the Journal of Pediatrics. Of deaths that were suffocations, 67% were by a bumper alone, and another 33% happened when a baby got wedged between the bumper and another object. Even with the significant increase in deaths recently, the authors believe these numbers are still “dramatically” undercounted.

Significantly, there are no federal regulations restricting the use of crib bumpers. The industry, which publishes its own voluntary standards, still considers these products to be safe, and they remain available in most baby stores. Nevertheless, some action has been taken – reportedly, the city of Chicago and the state of Maryland ban bumper sales.

Unfortunately, manufacturers and retailers can be slow to respond to safety issues, waiting for a body count to rise before considering actions such as recalls and redesigns. In the meantime, families are often left with little or conflicting information,. Parents and caregivers must arm themselves with the latest information regarding potentially hazardous, even deadly, children’s products – do not assume that items are safe simply because they are available for sale on retail shelves and online.

If you have questions or concerns about crib, crib bumper, or children’s product safety, feel free to contact the product safety attorneys at Swartz & Swartz, P.C.

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WATCH OUT For Toy Hazards This Holiday Season

World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc. (W.A.T.C.H.) today revealed its nominees for the “10 Worst Toys of 2015” and demonstrated the reason “Jurassic World Velociraptor Claws,” and other potentially hazardous toys, should not be in the hands of children. According to W.A.T.C.H., with 46 percent of purchases this holiday season expected to be made via the Internet, parents and caregivers should take extra precautions when buying toys online.

W.A.T.C.H. warns that consumers buying toys on the Internet are already at a disadvantage as they are unable to touch and physically inspect a toy and its packaging at the time of sale for more obvious hazards. As a result, once the toy is obtained, parents should thoroughly inspect the toy and it’s packaging prior to putting it into the hands of a child. Caregivers should not be lulled into a false sense of security that a toy is safe because of a familiar brand name on a package. Also, some toys available for purchase online may have retailer warnings and age recommendations that are inconsistent with those supplied by manufacturers. In some cases, the warnings may be omitted from the Internet description completely. Such omissions and inconsistencies regarding important safety information can lead to misinformed, and potentially dangerous, consumer purchases.

For a list of toys representing potential dangers this year, as well as additional safety information, please visit www.toysafety.org. Best wishes to everyone from Swartz & Swartz, P.C. for a safe and healthy year-end!

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A Warning for Families: Dangers Associated With Coats and Car Seats

As winter approaches, parents and caregivers will start to bundle small children in bulky coats and other winter garments prior to placing them into car seats. Many are unaware, however, that doing so presents a significant risk. Safety experts agree that as a general rule, such garments should never be worn underneath car seat straps and harnesses, which can result in the safety harness being too loose to be effective in a crash. Some car seat manuals even state that winter coats should not be worn while using their products, though such cautions often do not provide the consequences, and also can be rendered ineffective when buried within many pages of information, instructions and warnings.

Dangerous Combination:

A mock crash staged by the Transport Research Laboratory for The Observer demonstrates that as the car seat swings backwards and then forwards under crash conditions, a child can be thrown out of his harness into the front seat, as a result of the child being strapped into a badly fitted car seat. The research states: “[T]he slackness of the harness would have prevented the seat spreading the force of the crash over the child’s body and reducing injury…too much slack in the harness means that the child will be caught later in the crash, because the harness doesn’t have time to absorb the energy.” Essentially, the force of a crash will cause the thickness of the coat to flatten, ensuring that the child will move within the harness and increasing the chance for injury. The combination of these two things means that suddenly a large gap exists for the shoulders and arms to come free of the harness.

Tips for Parents:

Parents might have a hard time balancing the importance of the coat test rule with an understandable need to keep their kids warm on chilly days. In Education.com’s article, Coats and Car Seats: A Lethal Combination?, author Keren Perles provides a few tips from Kelly Klasek, a lead instructor of community education at St. Louis Children’s Hospital: (1) Try a poncho that goes over the straps in the front and over the car seat in the back. Car seat ponchos are also available online; or (2) after buckling in your child, put your child’s arms through the sleeves and let the child wear the coat backwards. Also, use car seat covers for infant seats that only have material over the harness, rather than those that go under the baby.

Using Car seats is of course critically important to provide the best protection for babies and small children in the event of a crash. However, it is equally important to ensure that the main safety feature of the car seat is not compromised. If you have questions or concerns about car seat safety, feel free to contact the product safety attorneys at Swartz & Swartz, P.C.

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The American Museum of Tort Law Opens In Winsted, Connecticut

Ralph Nader, renowned consumer advocate, is the driving force behind the opening of a unique museum, called The American Museum of Tort Law, in Winsted, Connecticut.

Nader’s consumer-protection advocacy is the lifeblood of the museum. Now 81 years old, he explained that the museum is a fulfillment of his longtime vision. The American Museum of Tort Law is the only law museum in the Western Hemisphere. This special museum is expected to captivate a wide spectrum of visitors. Nader noted that “it relates to almost everybody’s daily experience. Who hasn’t been in a motor vehicle and watched a crash or been in a crash? Who hasn’t taken drugs, medicines? Who hasn’t been treated by a doctor or a hospital? Who hasn’t had their property damaged wrongfully?”

The museum tells the story of landmark cases through exhibits and graphic-novel type illustrations. One of the exhibits, a Chevrolet Corvair, which was featured in his 1965 book on the auto industry’s safety record, “Unsafe at Any Speed” is a main attraction. The cherry-red Chevrolet Corvair disgraced in his book relates to his General Motors incident, where Nader sued the company for the tort of invasion of privacy.

Of note, and of special significance to the Swartz & Swartz family, is the dedication of a room at the museum for children, describing many types of dangerous toys over the years. The exhibit focuses on the life and work of Swartz & Swartz founder, Edward Swartz, and the nonprofit group World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc. (WATCH). Ed swartz was a pioneer in the fight to make toys and children’s products safer.

There are historical cases that students read in law school that broke new ground in the 1800s and 1900s and have expanded. Another main attraction is that many of the exhibits include questions intended to persuade the public to think about how they would have handled certain cases. Nader believes that this encourages our nation to think about our understanding of the law and it is intended to promote and motivate civic duty.

Nader states that the museum is for just about anyone, and his dream does not stop here. He hopes students all over the world will re-enact famous legal cases, and the museum, which so far has raised $2 million, is pursuing support of additional programs, such as national touring exhibitions.

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