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Re: Lumb-R-Grip Hanger Hooks

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On Feb 28, 2006, at 10:22 AM, Polhemus, Bill wrote:

But it is difficult to make blanket statements on a subject like this
generally, because of the reality of the litigious atmosphere we all
A good point. I still do a certain amount of mechanical forensic work, and it's got to be a concern, but I don't think it needs to be a driving concern. Particularly for items like the hanger. Mechanical product liability especially is not as profitable a source of damages as it once was--these days medical liability and class action is much bigger.

The idea of reasonableness is really the guts of it all. First, there's no way that any reasonable person would string enough of these hangers together to cause a significant structural failure. Even if some lunatic actually did so, the damages would have to exceed a middle 5 figure amount before any attorney would waste his time filing suit. I'm sure it'd be possible to concoct circumstances where such a situation might occur, like some moron who burned down his house when a hanger failed and dropped a glass jug of gasoline to the floor, but again the issue of reasonableness comes in. Bottom feeders may take a case like that, but no one who really has brains and resources is going to waste time on that kind of nonsense. Manufacturers are also becoming less likely to cave in and settle for the big bucks these days. Taking a case like this to trial is a big risk, depending an a lot of imponderables. Just like the rest of us, no lawyer willingly bets the farm on a long shot when the pay-off, which can take years in many products cases, isn't a big one.

And in fact, if the manufacturer takes the simple step of explaining that the load limitation of the hanger is, say, 200 lb, and that ganging several hangers is likewise dangerous, his butt is covered. Which is not to say that he can't ever be sued, but it's not possible to make a guarantee that you'll never be sued. Lawyers and insurance people make a lot of money pretending to erect imaginary barriers against litigation, but it doesn't happen. You can spend your last dime on insurance, and all you do is show that there's a deep pocket for someone to try to empty. Or you can spend it on legal fees creating clever contract provisions and you'll give all your clients good reason to believe that either you have something to hide or you spend a lot of time defending yourself in court.

Had the auto been invented just fifty years later, I imagine Nader would have written "Unsafe At High Speeds." And lawyers would have had a field day, we'd all have governors in our engines, and no one would be allowed
to go faster than 30 mph.
Again--look at what's reasonable. The automobile industry spent years denying that safety isn't a selling point. That was among the stupidest moves they ever made, and they made a bunch of them. Volvo proved that safety does sell and Ford (pinto and Bronco) proved that people do pay attention to safety concerns.

Nader's efforts were directed against the Corvair, of which I was a very pleased owner for 10 years. There's no question that GM cut some serious corners with that car, but in fact Nader's arguments were technical crap that GM could have easily addressed. Instead they chose to abandon the design, despite the fact that VW and Porsche were making good money with rear engine cars that handled well, didn't leak oil, were easy to maintain and didn't leak exhaust fumes into the heater system. Properly set up, the Corvair could handle very well, but GM was having none of it. They did the same thing with the Fiero and the Olds diesels--took a good design and turned it into crap with poor execution. They could have done a first rate engineering job on every car they ever built, and still be making the best cars in the world, but they looked at a feast of opportunities and went right straight for the small potatoes. Now the Japanese are feasting on GM's lunch. Don't blame lawyers or the fuzzy thinking by people like Ralph Nader for the problems in the American auto industry. The place to look is the boardroom.

Christopher Wright P.E. |"They couldn't hit an elephant at
chrisw(--nospam--at)   | this distance" (last words of Gen.
.......................................| John Sedgwick, Spotsylvania 1864)

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