Re: lawyers vs. AirCars
Mon, 23 Aug 1999 08:50:34 EDT

In a message dated 99-08-22 22:40:53 EDT, (Spike Jones) wrote:

> Help us Obie Wan Gregory, you're our only hope.

Fortunately, it isn't up to me. But the adoption of new technologies IS helped or hindered by how the law perceives and accommodates the risks presented by new ways of doing things. This was the subject of a paper I presented at the Spring, 1998 Foresight Institute Senior Associates gathering, "Tiny Torts: A Liability Primer for Nanotechnologists":

This brief and very basic paper generally discusses how the common law of torts has evolved and adapted to the introduction of new technologies. What you will find there is the comforting knowledge that in fact the common law has developed principles by which introduction of new technologies is not only possible, but is actually ENCOURAGED by common law tort concepts such as the "reasonable person", "foreseeable risk" and "state of the art".

In this regard, I would note (as I have before) that non-lawyers should not draw conclusions about how the legal system works from accounts in the popular press. Journalists succeed by selling sensational stories, such as the huge products liability verdict against GM mentioned, or the famous McDonald's coffee burn case. What DOESN'T get reported is the vast majority of the cases in which manufacturers use the standards found in the law to defend the reasonable steps they've taken to develop and market sound new technologies. (Likewise, the reasonable workings of the appellate system aren't usually reported, so that the papers don't cover things like the eventual outcome of the McDonald's case -- in which all but a small portion of the original damage award was overturned -- or, more importantly, where important new rules excluding "junk science" from trial courtrooms have been developed.)

     Greg Burch     <>----<>
     Attorney  :::  Vice President, Extropy Institute  :::  Wilderness Guide   -or-
                         "Civilization is protest against nature; 
                  progress requires us to take control of evolution."
                                      -- Thomas Huxley