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  Cases That Have Made Families Safer



Thanks to America's civil justice system and citizen jurors, families and children are safer than ever.

  • Companies no longer sell flammable pajamas that incinerate infants
  • Life-threatening asbestos is no longer used in schools, homes and workplaces
  • Contraceptive devices that caused sterility have been recalled
  • Trucks now have back-up alarm beepers
  • Farm machinery that amputated limbs now have protective guards.
  • The following are just a few of the countless cases that have made our families safer.

The following are just a few of the countless cases that have made our families safer.

For 70 Cents... Steven Could Still Have His Arms

Steven Sharp of Richland, Oregon, lost both his arms to a defective tractor when he was 17 years old.

The tractor manufacturer knew one person had been mangled, and another decapitated, by this defectively designed product. The company did nothing, even though it knew a small 70-cent part would have fixed the problem. A jury found the manufacturer responsible for making a machine that can maim and kill . . . all because the company wouldn't spend a few cents to fix it.

Companies like this must be held accountable.

That's why Steven and his attorney were upset when they saw manufacturers asking Congress to protect them by passing a bill that would prevent people from suing for injuries caused by a defective product more than 18 years old. The tractor that caused Steven to lose his arms was 20 years old. Under this measure, the courthouse doors would have been closed for Steven, even to recover his medical expenses.

Steven's case had a positive effect on Capitol Hill and ultimately helped convince President Clinton to veto this unfair legislation. What happened to Steven shouldn't happen to anyone else. But if it does, they should have a chance to seek justice too.

Little Steven Olsen's Tragedy Highlights Danger of Legal "Reforms"

Kathy and Scott Olsens' California dream turned into an American nightmare the day Steven, their 2-year-old son, fell during a family outing and got a twig lodged in his cheek. Their HMO sent them to doctors who repeatedly refused their request for an MRI and ignored Steven's worsening condition.

Finally, after days of crying and pleading, Steven finally got a brain scan, and it showed what the family already feared—an abscess in his brain, caused by the stick. Because he had been left untreated for so long, Steven went blind and developed cerebral palsy.

Imagine the Olsens' anger when they later learned that the HMO knew all about the possibility of a brain abscess, even as it was forbidding Steven to get a brain scan or to see a neurologist.

That anger only grew when the award granted the Olsens by a jury was slashed to just $250,000 under California's "one-size-fits-all" cap on "non-economic" injuries like Steven's blindness and other permanent disabilities—an amount that no way can adequately compensate Steven or his family for this tragedy.

The Olsens have vigorously testified both in California and Washington, DC, about the dangers of unaccountable managed care insurance plans and the damage done by award caps, and will continue to do so in the future. What happened to this family is a tragedy. It would be more tragic still if our leaders didn't learn from their experience.

Republished with the permission of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.