On October 19, 2023, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced a recall of biometric gun safes manufactured by Fortress Safe. The recall stems from a defect that allows the safe to be opened by unauthorized users. The safe uses biometrics – fingerprints – but the defect causes the safe to stay in default to open mode, meaning anyone’s fingerprint will open the safe, not just the authorized user. As of this writing, there have been 39 incidents of unauthorized access and one death of a child who was able to access the gun.
The CPSC, in its notice, says it was “aware of a recent lawsuit” about the death of the child. That lawsuit was filed by Claggett & Sykes Law Firm on behalf of the family of Carson Preston, a 12-year-old boy who died after he was able to access his parents’ gun because of a defective Fortress safe. The family is happy that these safes will be off store shelves and hopeful that nobody else will go through what they’ve suffered.
While the civil justice system is not perfect, it is one of the last places where large-scale change can be effectuated. And one of the last places where people have a real say about what happens in their community. From polluted drinking water to dangerous pharmaceutical to unsafe vehicles, trial lawyers have been at the forefront of forcing corporations to put safety before profits. Folks don’t always learn about the cases that make their lives safer, but these cases can shape laws and hold wrongdoers accountable.
Today’s blog discusses some other landmark cases – some recent, some in the past – that have held the right people responsible and sent a strong message to the rest of the world.
Grimshaw v. Ford Motor Company (1981)
The landmark legal case Grimshaw v. Ford Motor Company changed the way the world thought about auto safety, and forced manufacturers to start focusing on safety features in their vehicles. It also led to the largest verdict in the history of product liability/personal injury cases at the time ($127.8 million).
In 1972, a woman named Lily Gray was driving her Ford Pinto; Richard Grimshaw was her passenger. She was rear-ended by another vehicle and the Pinto burst into flames, because the force of the crash pushed the vehicle’s gas tank forward. The tank was punctures and fuel sprayed everywhere, including the interior of the car. Gray succumbed to her injuries, but Grimshaw survived; he underwent multiple surgeries and skin grafts, and suffered permanent disfigurement as a result.
During trial, it was revealed that Ford’s own crash tests proved the design of the vehicle was unsafe; the scenario with the fuel spill had occurred during testing. But instead of making the appropriate changes to the design, Ford sold the Pinto – defects and all – to an unsuspecting public.
Camp Lejeune Justice Act (2022) and ongoing water contamination claims
Camp Lejeune is a U.S. Marine Corp Base Camp in North Carolina. In 1982, the Marine Corp learned that toxins were leaking into their water supply, which came from two treatment plants on the base: Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point. Between 1953 and 1987, thousands of people – men, women and children; servicemembers, civilians, and their families – ingested this contaminated water.
What they found was that folks who lived and worked on-based experienced higher percentages of diseases such as cancers, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease”), Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Parkinson’s, and more.
Over the past decade, multiple laws have been passed to provide relief to the people affected by the contaminated water. The Janey Ensminger Act was passed in 2012 to “establish a presumption of service connection for illnesses associated with contaminants in the water supply at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and to provide health care to family members of veterans who lived at Camp Lejeune while the water was contaminated.” In 2017, additional legislation provided disability relief for veterans.
But it wasn’t until the PACT Act passed in 2022 that real justice was available for victims of Camp Lejeune’s water contamination. The PACT Act may be best known for its relief on behalf of servicepeople exposed to burn pits, but it also contained the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, which lifted a procedural bar in N.C., allowing ANYONE exposed to the camp’s toxic water (between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987) to make a claim for compensation. Trial lawyers were the force behind getting this law passed, and fought for years to do so.
These claims are still being filed and processed. There hasn’t been a resolution yet, but just getting the legislation passed was a huge deal – and it was trial lawyers who spearheaded the push for justice.
Claggett & Sykes is also proud to report our own record of success in life-changing verdicts and settlements. In a recent case, our team secured a record-breaking $485 million verdict for a client who was sexually abused in a foster home. We believe this is the largest single-plaintiff sexual abuse verdict ever.
Per AP News, “The jury awarded $80 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages against Acadia Healthcare, the operator of a now-defunct licensed residential treatment facility in New Mexico.”
Our team was honored to represent this client, and our hope is that this verdict shows that she is valued and that what happened to her was wrong. We also represent two other victims who Acadia placed into Garcia’s home and suffered similar abuse.
Another case of which we are particularly proud is our client Amy Geiler. Amy suffered a neurological condition known as Osmotic Demyelination Syndrome (ODS) due to medical malpractice. ODS impairs the brain’s ability to communicate with the body, primarily due to damage to the brain stem. This condition has left Amy in a “locked-in” state.
In her locked-in state, Amy lacks voluntary muscle control below her neck, rendering her incapable of bodily movement, speech, self-care, or even the act of eating. The tragedy of locked-in syndrome is that Amy remains conscious, alert, and possesses cognitive abilities, yet she cannot convey facial expressions, communicate verbally, or meaningfully move her body.
In our medical malpractice case, jurors came back with a verdict of $47 million in damages, with $35 million of that being for pain and suffering. Unfortunately, due to Nevada’s medical malpractice laws, the pain and suffering damages will be reduced to the legal cap of $350,000. We plan to continue to fight for Amy and her family.
At Claggett & Sykes, we help injury victims. We can help you, too. To schedule a consultation with an experienced attorney, please call our Las Vegas or Reno offices, or fill out our contact form.
We are not simply a personal injury firm. We are trial lawyers who take on catastrophic injury, brain injury, and wrongful death cases. These cases are different than most personal injury cases and the needs of these cases cannot be met by law firms that take on just any case.
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