Although school busses are widely acknowledged to be among the safest vehicles on the road, this is no consolation for the family of Aaron Beauchamp or for the more than 50 other children who over the past 11 years have been killed while riding a school bus. Thankfully for these families and all those with children riding school buses, the products liability class action lawsuit developing around the Beauchamp tragedy seeks to prevent dangerous school buses from continuing to operate.
The Birth of a Products Liability Class Action
A nine-year-old boy is killed in a Florida school bus accident. The driver is sued for negligence. The attorney then discovers that a metal screw from the child’s seatbelt had come loose during the crash, and determines that the seatbelt latch was defective. Further research is done. The lawyer discovers that only a few weeks before, an 11 year-old girl was killed in a similar crash in New Jersey. The lawyer then learns that the bus manufacturing industry and the government knew 35 years ago that there was a problem with the seats on school busses and did nothing. The lawsuit is amended and becomes a products liability class action – now with the goal of affecting widespread change in the industry.
A product liability class action (a type of “mass tort”) generally begins with the identification of a product defect and an analysis as to whether the problem is singular or indicative of a pattern in all identical or similar products. If the defect which led to the injury or damage is not unique, it is assumed that there exist other consumers with the same issue. At this point, the class of consumers (the “putative class”) is defined—this includes, but is not limited to identifying its size, demographics, concerns and overall behavior.
In most cases, despite the similarity in damages from a specific product or type of product, each victim’s harm is so individualized that it is difficult or impossible to bring their cases together. This has been the reason that many asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma, asbestosis and other asbestos-related cancers are usually handled on a case-by-case basis. However, where there is an ascertainable group that shares a commonality of interests and who stand to benefit by consolidating their claims into a collective lawsuit, a class action is usually most prudent for everyone.
Protecting Consumers from Negligent Corporations
Not all lawyers and law firms are able to handle the expense and vigor of a mass tort. These types of lawsuits are far more complicated than the average claim and do not follow the procedures typical of most lawsuits. If you believe your case might be better served as a class action or other mass tort, contact a firm with experience and an excellent track record with these types of cases to determine the best course of action.
If you have any questions on this blog or need information on other personal injury queries, please call the Law offices of Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath located in West Palm Beach at 1-800 4-RIGHTS (1-800- 474-4487) We welcome your call and look forward to helping you.