Motorcycle and Bicycle Crash Analysis- Wobble, Weave and Capsize

28th August 2011 by John Sedgewick

Motorcycle and Bicycle Crash Analysis – Wobble, Weave and


Motorcycles and bicycles stay upright for the same reasons,
so they also crash for the same reasons. This is true despite their difference
in weight and the difference in the speed at which they commonly travel. Although
the rule holds true for crashes which involve two wheeled cycles  and other participants such as pedestrians
and other drivers, in this discussion we are talking only about crashes that
involve a bike, unaffected by the actions of people other than the rider and
any passenger who may be aboard.


The most simple form of bike crash is called a capsize. It
happens when the center of gravity of the bike and rider get so far outside of
the contact points between the tires and the ground that the operator cannot
overcome the force of gravity. A capsize is really just a form of falling over
sideways. As simple as it is, understanding the basics of the capsize is
necessary to understanding the more complex forms of crash.


The three critical components of the capsize are the two
places where the tires meet the road and the one single point where the center
of gravity of the rider/bike combination is located. Starting with a non-moving
two-wheeled bike standing straight up with a single rider, it is easy to
visualize these three components. The places where the tires meet the road will
be patches that are roughly square. They are where tires are slightly squashed
against the pavement, and are roughly square because gravity pulls the bike and
rider down and the compressed air pumped into the tires is, by design, not
powerful enough to maintain perfect roundness of the tires. The force of the air
in the tires makes them hard enough to avoid going entirely flat, but soft
enough to provide a cushioned ride, so the tires go slightly flat and are
slightly spread out on the road. Theoretically, the two contact patches are of
equal size, as both tires share the burden of holding everything up. However,
assuming that the tire pressures are equal but the rear of the bike is loaded
more heavily than the front, the rear contact patch is probably a little bigger
than the front one. Also, assuming that the combined weight of the bike and
rider is evenly distributed to the left and right, the tire/road contact patches
will be centered on the front-to-back centerline of the bike.


Having visualized the two tire/road contact patches, the
center of gravity is remains to be considered.  The center of gravity is the point around
which the combined bike/rider would balance in every direction if the
combination could be supported there (which can only occur in theory). To visualize
it, consider any two-wheeled bike sitting on a flat roadway and viewed from the
side. The left/right position of the center of gravity will be close enough to
the middle of the space between the two wheels (or road contact patches) that
there is no chance of the bike tipping over frontwards or backwards (not so
with a unicycle!). Considered from the front or rear, the center of gravity of
this bike will be directly above the bike’s front-to-back centerline (if you
suspended a lead weight from the center of gravity, it would hang straight down
to the left/right centerline of the bike). As long as gravity is pulling the
rider/bike straight down on the front-to-back centerline of, the gravitational
pull will be aligned with and resisted by the two road/tire contact patches and
the bike will stay upright. If the rider leans left, he or she moves the center
of gravity to the left of the front-to-back centerline of the road/tire contact
patches, and the contact patches can no longer overcome the pull of gravity.
The rider will have to put his left foot down, or the bike will fall over in a


Beyond a bike capsize from a stationary position, the
mechanism of single bicycle and motorcycle crashes get more complicated fast. The
same three components, two road/tire contact patches and the center of gravity
of the bike/rider, are the critical factors, but there is a lot of changing
going on with a moving bike.


For example, when the bike is still, the shape and size of
the road/tire contact patches does not change. When the bike is in motion, it
changes constantly. When the bike accelerates, the load on the front wheel
drops (which is what makes the “wheelie” possible). As the load on the front
wheel drops, the rear contact patch gets bigger and the front contact point gets
smaller (until, in a wheelie, there is no front contact patch at all). When the
bike leans to the right, the contact patches move to the right (part way up the
sidewall, similar to what happens when a sailboat heels- that part of the hull
which is supports a heeling boat is different than that which supports a boat at
rest). The angle of lean (or heel) and the front/back weight distribution are
just two things that affect the size and shape of the contact patch. Wind and the
hardness, flatness, roughness, and stickiness of the road surface, which also
vary constantly, all change the shape of the road/tire contact patches and
affect the stability of the bike.


Wobble and weave are two specific forms of instability which
are characteristic and virtually unavoidable in two wheel bikes and
motorcycles. They will be explained in more detail later.


Few motorcyclists or bicyclists think about or understand
the dynamics of capsize, wobble or weave, but they all have an instinct as to
how to manage them to avoid crashing. When a crash does occur, an engineer or
other expert may be called upon to re-create or reconstruct the events leading
to the crash. Did the bike go down strictly due to operator error, or was a
defect in a tire,  or the design of the bike
play a significant role? If wind and road conditions play a part in a bike
tipping over, it is not hard to see that fork construction, tire performance
and bike suspension also play a big role. A crash reconstructionist must be
prepared to analyze all of these factors, as well as issues of maintenance and
repair, to be able to explain the cause of a bike or motorcycle crash.


If you or a close friend or loved one have been hurt in a bike
crash, be sure that your case is evaluated by an engineer and an attorney who can
identify the factors that lead to crashes and properly analyze them. At Berman
& Simmons, we have the experience, resources and will to understand your
case and to pursue all of the remedies that are available under the law. We are
happy to answer your questions about your potential case and our expertise. All
of our work is done on a contingent fee basis, which means that there is no
cost to you unless and until we win.





Workplace Injuries, Third Party Liability, and Employer Negligence

31st July 2011 by John Sedgewick

If you have suffered a serious physical injury at work, you will probably be entitled to wage benefits to help you through your period of disability and medical benefits for as long as you need medical care to treat your work injury. In most Maine cases, wage benefits are calculated as 80% of your post-tax average weekly wage. Similar calculations are made in most states, including our northern New England neighbors, New Hampshire and Vermont, although every state uses a slightly different formula. No injured worker gets lost income benefits that equal his or her take home pay, which is one of the reasons why being out on workers comp benefits is so hard on workers and their families.

One common question associated with workplace injuries is why an injured worker cannot sue an employer for negligence. In most states, employers are immune from basic negligence claims when an employee of the company is the injured party. This rule, which also bars suits against co-workers, dates to the early 1900s, when workers compensation statutes became law in most states. Before that, if a worker was injured on the job, he or she could sue the negligent employer. However, such claims had to be pursued through the courts just like every other personal injury claims. For at least two reasons, that approach does not work too well for injured workers. First, personal injury cases cannot be evaluated and should not be settled until the worker is fully healed. Healing can take years, and injured workers cannot wait that long to have their medical bills paid or to have an income. Second, personal injury claims filed in court are fault-based claims—the injured person must prove that the defendant’s carelessness caused the injury. In some work injury situations, it is not possible to prove that the injury was caused by the fault of the employer.

Examples of work injuries not caused by the fault of the employer abound, but some of the obvious ones are gradual injuries from repetitive motion, back injuries caused by lifting, and vehicle accidents caused by careless drivers who are not co-employees with the injured worker. In all of these cases, if there were no workers comp system, the employee would get nothing from the employer.

Another example of an injury caused by something other than the employer’s fault is a product liability claim based on a machine malfunction or product defect. Without the workers compensation system, there would be no medical payments or wage replacement benefits when an improperly filled gas cylinder explodes, when a saw blade or grinding wheel flys apart due to defects in manufacture, or when a vehicle transmission unexpectedly slips into gear. Ladder failure, chair failure, electric arcing from poor system design and mislabeled chemicals are all sources of work injuries where the employer may not be at fault. In such cases, workers comp benefits are an important lifeline for the injured worker and his family.

In some of these cases, such as those caused by negligent drivers and faulty products, it may be possible to get immediate assistance with medical bill and income replacement and to also pursue a case in court against the person or entity responsible for the injury. Such cases are known as “third party” cases because they are brought against someone other than a co-worker or the employer—someone remote enough under the law to be considered a third party.

Some cases are complicated by a combination of third party fault and a share of employer negligence. For example, if there is a defect in a transmission or punch press but the employer allows its use despite the problem, the employer might deserve some criticism and some blame for allowing the unsafe product to be used and thus contributing to the injury. It is in these cases that injured employees may legitimately ask, “How can they get away with this?”

The only answer to that question is the one mentioned above. When the workers comp system was set up about a hundred years ago, a basic trade was made. The employer gained immunity from a negligence suit, but took on the obligation to make immediate payments for lost income and medical payments. That legislative trade is not perfect, and it does not work out well in every case, but for most injured workers it is a far better arrangement than one in which the employer pays nothing if it is not at fault, and the employer pays only after being proven guilty of wrongdoing, which may not occur until years after the injury.

Riding Lawn Mower Safety

30th June 2011 by John Sedgewick

Lawn mowing can be faster and easier with a riding mower than with a push mower. However, it can also be more dangerous. To avoid serious injuries and deaths associated specifically with riding mowers, remember:
-riding mowers can have an unexpectedly high center of gravity, which can lead to rollover accidents. It is best to avoid mowing across sloping ground, because even a moderate slope can cause a mower to overturn and roll downhill. The rollover problem gets worse as the operator gets bigger because the taller and heavier the operator, the higher the center of gravity is raised. Higher center of gravity means a greater chance of an upset. Also, soft ground increases the chances of rollover because of the risk that the downhill wheels will sink, increasing the apparent angle of the slope. If you must mow sloping ground with a riding mower, mow straight up or straight down the slope. That will diminish the chance of rollover;
-the likelihood of injury in a rollover mowing accident can be lowered if both a seat belt and rollover bar (ROPS- rollover protective structure) are used because if the operator stays in the seat and within the protective shield of the ROPS, the he or she may avoid being crushed between the machine and the ground. The ROPS and the seatbelt must be used together, however, because one without the other can be more dangerous than having neither. If a ROPS-protected mower rolls, the operator is going to fall out if he or she is not buckled in, and falling out increases the risk of a crush injury. On the other hand, if an operator is buckled into a rolling mower with no ROPS, he or she has no chance to escape from the machine. Either scenario is likely to result in a devastating and life threatening crush injury. Mowing on a slope is dangerous even with both a ROPS and a seatbelt, however, as the ROPS may not protect the operator if the mower rolls against a large stone, a stump or a tree;
-riding mowers are small vehicles with no rear view mirrors and the operator’s ability to see while backing up can be extremely limited. This is complicated by the fact that operators do not expect people to be behind them, and often do not even attempt to look before backing up. “Backover” incidents are not uncommon. When they occur, the frequently involve small children and devastating injuries.
-to avoid backover incidents, do not allow young children outside while mowing is underway, think twice and look three times before backing. To minimize the risk of injury, be sure that the mower is set up so that it will not mow in reverse. The blade should stop spinning when the mower is in reverse. That way, if there is a backover incident, the injury will not be aggravated by contact with the spinning blade.
Finally, as part of riding mower safety, be sure that your mower has an “empty seat” kill switch, sometimes referred to as a “dead man” switch. This switch is usually located in or as part of the seat, and is intended to shut the motor down when the operator is not in the seat. This prevents people from attempting to mow while walking along beside the mower (such as people have tried to do to stabilize a mower on a slope) and stops the mower if the operator is thrown or knocked from the operator’s seat (as he or she might be if hit by a tree branch or if thrown off balance). Never disable or tamper with the kill switch, and test it often to be sure that it is functioning properly.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a riding mower accident, call Berman and Simmons to discuss what happened. We have handled these cases before, and are able to quickly examine the mower and the location where the injury happened and advise you about possible legal rights and remedies. We can also quickly arrange for an engineer or other lawn mower expert to assist in reviewing the case. Either way, we would be glad to assist you by sharing our expertise, experience and insight. All of our work is done on a contingent fee basis, so there is no charge unless or until we are successful. Call our toll free number 1-800-244-3576 is our toll free number or visit our website to learn more about our work and our lawyers. We are easy to talk to and ready to help.

Contaminated Triad Alcohol Wipes, Swabs and Other Products

15th May 2011 by John Sedgewick

Contaminated alcohol wipes produced and sold by the Triad Group have been linked to severe infection and death across the country. Although the problem may have been known to Triad and to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration since July of 2009, no public announcement was made before the tainted wipes allegedly caused the death of a 2-year old boy from Texas.  The company has since issued a recall of its alcohol-based products, citing the potential for microbial infection for people who use them.  The parents of the 2-year-old Texas toddler have sued Triad in connection with their child’s death.

The FDA chose not issue warnings about the defective products in the early stages of its investigation, and now says that it chose to “work closely” with Triad to “voluntarily” improve the quality of the wipes, and that it had hoped that the need for “corrective actions would be addressed” voluntarily and promptly by the firm.

By the time Triad issued its recall, the child in Texas had suffered complications of infection and passed away and numerous other people were infected by the same deadly bacteria, Bacillus cereus. Infection is a serious problem in many U. S. hospitals, and can be very expensive to treat. It is particularly dangerous to people who are weakened by underlying illness. Even after intense in-patient care it may be necessary for people battling infection to take IV anti-biotics for 24  hours day at home for weeks following release from the hospital.

The contaminated products sold by Triad may be in the form of individually packaged alcohol prep pads, alcohol swabs and alcohol swabsticks. Lubricating jelly sold by Triad has also been recalled. In Maine, Triad alcohol pads packaged inside sealed self-injection kits sold by national drug store chains are suspected of causing severe infection and extended hospital stays. The self-injection kits include prescription medications, and are assembled and labelled by companies other than Triad. The kits include the Triad swabs for the consumer to use for cleaning the injection site before the injection of the prescription medication. 

In November of 2010, a Colorado hospital reportedly told the FDA of having detected a life-threatening bacterium inTriad sanitizing wipes. After that report, an FDA inspection team may have finally realized that the earlier complaints had not been addressed. Further inspection revealed that Triad’s contaminated products had been widely distributed.

Although retail stores stopped selling the Triad products soon after the recent recall, it took longer to stop the sale of the tainted products over the internet and longer to stop people from using previously-purchased stocks of the products that were in their homes.

If you are or have been suffering with endomyocarditis or other serious complications of infection, consult with your doctor immediately about whether a contaminated Triad product may be the source of  your infection. If you need the help of an experienced product liability attorney in assessing your situation, call Berman and Simmons 1 800 244 3576. We have been recognized by U.S. News and World Report as Maine’s best law firm for helping people injufed by defective products.

Defects in Artificial Hips- the DePuy ASR Hip Replacement System

19th April 2011 by John Sedgewick

It has been estimated that 90,000 patients have had hip replacement surgery in which the DePuy ASR metal-on-metal prosthesis was implanted. The metal-on-metal design, which sounds like a bad idea to begin with, was sold as an improvement over metal-on-plastic designs. DePuy promised that it would last longer, be more comfortable and cause fewer orthopedic complications than prior designs.

Unfortunately, for thousands of people the surgery has not worked out well. Although DePuy has recalled the products, and although it does not agree with its critics, some researchers have concluded that the DePuy ASR metal-on-metal prosthesis is poorly designed and is poisoning people with heavy metals.

One theory of how this happens is that the metal components of the implanted hip joint, one in the top of the femur and one in the pelvis, grind against each other, creating tiny metal shavings. These shavings, which can be microscopic, include bits of chromium and cobalt, two highly poisonous materials. The poisons travel throughout the body, causing a reaction in the immune system generally known as metallosis.

Metallosis is known to destroy bone and muscle. It can result in spontaneous joint dislocation, pain and fatigue. It is suspected of causing heart problems, kidney failure and cancer.

DePuy has been criticized not only for defects in the design of its ASR metal-on-metal hip replacement hardware, but also for being slow to respond to problems as they were discovered. DePuy has been accused of continuing to sell defective hip replacement hardware in the U.S. even as it was recalling the same product in other parts of the world.

People who have had DePuy ASR hip replacements report suffering with many of the symptoms of metallosis, as well as severe pain at the site of their surgery. Thousands of U.S. citizens have already filed suits against DePuy. Most of those cases are being handled as part of an MDL (Multi-District Litigation), a method used by courts across the country to consolidate similar cases before one judge. The purpose of this approach is to minimize the cost of litigation for both sides, and to give plaintiffs access to the best and most knowledgeable experts without have to fund an independent analysis of the facts and medical issues in each case.

If you believe that you are suffering as a result of a defective hip prosthesis, you can contact one of the law firms advertising on the internet for such cases or contact a local lawyer with knowledge of similar cases. The local attorney may be able to help you by handling the case by himself or herself or by associating with one of the coalitions of plaintiffs’ lawyers handling similar cases on a national basis.

Some patients who suffer with post-surgical hip joint failure may believe that their problems are caused by a surgeon who made mistakes during the surgery. Sometimes they are right about that. However, sometimes it is not the surgeon but the hip replacement hardware that is the source of the patient’s trouble.

We at Berman and Simmons can analyze both the medical malpractice issues and the product liability issues. In Maine, there is generally a three year statute of limitations applicable to medical malpractice cases and a six year statute of limitations applicable to product liability cases. These rules are not the same in every state and are not necessarily the same in every case, so please call us if you want insight into your case or a particular situation that you have heard about. We will be glad to talk to you.

Handle Failure Cases

28th March 2011 by John Sedgewick

Injuries arising out of the failure of a handle or the fasteners used to secure it are surprisingly common.

In one case, a person suffered a head injury due to a defective handle design on a garden cart. The cart was purchased in pieces with assembly instructions. The handle (a bracked-shaped part when viewed from above: [ ) was made of tubular steel and designed to slide into brackets, one  bolted to each side of the cart. The design anticipated that the user would grip the long side  of the handle (the vertical portion illustrated above) and push the cart in front of him or her.  As long as the user pushed the cart, the tubular steel handle pressed harder into the brackets.  However, the designer did not provide bolts, screws or other fasteners to restrain the handle in the brackets, so when the user pulled backwards on the handle with a heavy load in the cart, the handle pulled out of the brackets and came free in the client’s hand. The client fell and suffered a serious injury because the defect in the design. It was entirely foreseeable that a user would pull backwards on the cart, and that someone might lose balance and get hurt. The need to fasten the handle would have been obvious to either a thoughtful designer or any safety engineer who reviewed the design, and manufacturers have a duty to eliminate obvious and unnecessary hazards from their products.

Another of my handle failure cases involved the pull strap on an overhead door on the back of a delivery truck. The back doors of such trucks are generally made in hinged panels mounted on rollers so they can roll up on tracks, one mounted on each side of the door opening  at the back of the truck. There is usually a spring provided with such doors to assist in the  task of opening them because they are too heavy for a person to lift alone.  Even with a spring assist for lifting, roll up truck doors are heavy. To keep the weight down, manufacturers commonly make them by sandwiching a lightweight core between a rigid matierial such as plywood on the inside and a light weight weatherproof aluminum on the outside. The sandwich is held together with rivets which sometimes pop apart. Rivet failure in the door sandwich is not such a bad problem becuase there are many rivets, the rollers on each outside edge of the doors are bolted on, and the loosening of the sandwich is not likely to cause injury. The problem arises when the same rivets are used to fasten the handle  (usually a metal plate and a nylon strap)  used for pulling the door up and down. When an unsuspecting worker standing on the narrow rear shelf of the truck pulls on the strap to raise or lower the door, his or her balance depends on the strap staying in place. When the strap comes loose, the worker is highly likely to fall off the truck. Serious injuries occur when people fall from three or four feet onto cement or paved parking lots.

Another sort of handle failure case is reflected in a recent product recall. See  the article at  The Consumer Products Safety Commission and the manufacturer have recalled a machete due to the risk that the handle grip is inadequate and unsafe. While using this particular machete, it is possible for one’s hand to slip off the handle forward onto the blade. Since the blades are razor sharp, this can result in  severe laceration. A properly designed handle would provide a “stop” to prevent the hand from sliding forward, or at least to deflect the hand and fingers away from the blade should a slipping accident occur.

These are just three examples of ways that poor handle design can cause injuries. There are many more circumstances in which severe and catastrophic injuries can result from handle failure or poor design.

If you or someone you know falls, suffers a severe cut or is otherwise hurt due to a poorly designed or defectively fastened handle, you should immediately preserve any and all available evidence. The handle itself and all related hardware, especially failed rivets, nuts or bolts, warnings and instructions, and photographs of such evidence as the truck door described above (which showed a pattern of rivet failure) are very important. Making the evidence available to an engineer, or at least a lawyer with  experience in such cases, can mean the difference between success and failure in the case. Without specific evidence demonstrating the conditions under which the handle failed and why it should not have failed, it may be impossible to prove the case.

You are always welcome to consult with Berman and Simmons free of charge on any personal injury case. If we decide that we can help, and if you choose to hire us, we will handle the case on a contingent fee basis, which means that we will not be paid unless we win. When we settle the case or win at trial, our fee will be a percentage of the recovery. 

Car Seats – Are They Really Child Safety Seats?

24th February 2011 by John Sedgewick

Twenty years ago, NHTSA, the federal government agency charged with overseeing vehicle safety, changed the official name of the child’s car seat from “child restraint system” to “child safety seat.”  Every parent and grandparent will tell you that child safety is what they expect when they buy and use these special seats.  But what is the difference between child restraint and child safety?

Child safety in a car seat starts with the idea of restraint. First the seat must be restrained in the car and then the child must be restrained in the seat.

The safest way to restrain a child’s car seat is to belt or tether it to the vehicle at both the base and the top.  Child seats that are not designed to be secured top and bottom are more likely to move within the car during a crash. This creates obvious and avoidable risks of injury.

When it comes to restraining the child in the seat, studies show that the safest approach is the five point harness, which secures the child across both shoulders, both hips, and at the crotch. Other restraint systems, including the three point harness, the tray shield, and the T-shield, are not as effective because they both allow more movement within the seat and increase the risk that a child will strike a sharp edge or a hard object during a crash. 

Child safety does not stop with a good restraint system. A good car seat will also be rugged enough so that it does not break or bend too much during a crash event and will have adequate padding so the when the child is thrown against the seat back or sides (or suspended upside down)  during a crash event the crash forces will be soft enough that no injury occurs.

Attention to padding and seat integrity in child car seats are extensions of the concepts of crashworthiness which have dramatically altered all aspects of automobile design since the advent of the seatbelt. Cars are much safer today, and child seats should be also. Recognition of this fact was the driving force behind the name change from “child restraint system” to “child safety seat.”  

A car seat that does not have adequate straps to hold the seat securely in the car or the child securely in the seat, or which allows a child to suffer lacerations or head or neck injury  in a crash may be a defective product.

If you or someone you know believes that a child’s car seat did not perform as a safety seat should, you should promptly contact to a lawyer who understands crashworthiness cases. It is very important to move quickly to secure and protect all of the critical evidence so that the case can be fully and properly evaluated.

John Sedgewick and Berman and Simmons have handled such cases, mostly in Maine but also in other states. Mr. Sedgewick is listed in Best Lawyers in America under the Plaintiff’s Product Liability section, and Berman and Simmons has been named by U.S. New and World Report as Maine’s best Plaintiff’s Product Liability law firm.

The Danger of Court Secrecy

29th January 2011 by John Sedgewick

Secrecy is one of the weapons used by defendants in product liability cases to limit access to justice.  Secrecy demanded as a condition of producing information in the context of lawsuits and secrecy and destruction of evidence demaneded in the context of settlement are both intended to keep people who may have claims similar to those of the plaintiff from learning about evidence that may help their case.

In the context of information exchange in a lawsuit, called discovery in civil cases, defendants often exaggerate the scope of information they claim to be a trade secret and demand that  plaintiff keep the information hidden as condition of producing it. For example, if a component part of a machine has been modified to eliminate a defect, the manufacturer may claim that the new design is a  trade secret which should be kept from the public. However,  legimate trade secret protection does not to extend to information that has been otherwise publicized.  Replacement parts on equipment sold publicly can be seen, measured and tested by anyone who is aware that the parts are present. The only benefit to keeping details about replacement parts secret is that people injured by the prior version of the product may not realize that they were injured by a defect that has now been eliminated from the product. This kind of secret is not what the law or the courts intend to protect.

In the context of settlement, the secrecy problem is worse.  Once plaintiff has gone to the expense and trouble of bringing a lawsuit to convince the defendant that he or she can prove the product to be defective, and after trying to defeat the plaintiff in every way possible, the defendant may agree to settle.  Often, such settlement agreements are conditioned on the plaintiff’s promise of secrecy and the demand that all evidence of defect, all proof such as test results, alternative designs, deposition transcripts, expert reports, and damaging photographs, be destroyed. In such cases, an injured plaintiff’s resources and energy may be exhausted and the will to fight for the protection of other victims may be overcome by the need for peace,  the need for resolution of conflict, and, frankly, the need for settlement money. At that point, there is no one looking out for the public interest in the free flow of information. The defendant often takes advantage of its market power and clamps a demand for secrecy on all that the plaintiff has learned.

Individual plaintiffs have a hard time fighting for the broader public interest in limiting confidentiality orders and secrecy demands to information which can legitimately be labeled secret. Protecting the broader public interest requires the attention and efforts of those of us not directly involved as parties to a particular case. To join the fight against secrecy in litigation,  read the postings on the dangers of excessive court secrecy at

Public Justice is a great organization dedicated to protecting every individual’s right to access to the courts and the information that flows from enforcement of individual rights. It is one of the leaders in the fight against courtroom secrecy.  You can join the fight against secrecy by supporting Public Justice or by joining as a member.

Choosing a Berman and Simmons Lawyer for your Product Liability Case

23rd December 2010 by John Sedgewick

If you need to talk to a lawyer about a product liability lawsuit, you should consult with Berman and Simmons. Our firm, which is widely known as “the best plaintiff’s trial firm in the state,” has investigated, prepared, settled or tried hundreds of product liability cases.

If you talk with other lawyers about us, they will say:

- Berman and Simmons has more experience representing injured people in products liability cases than any other firm in the state;

- Berman and Simmons has more resources available to help people injured by defective products liability than any other firm in the state;

- Berman and Simmons has more jury trial experience in personal injury cases than any other firm in the state.

If you would rather settle your case than go to trial, why do you need an experienced trial lawyer?

- Although most personal injury cases settle before trial, insurance companies and their lawyers know which lawyers are ready, willing and able to try a case and which are not. If your lawyer is not respected by the other side, or is not really ready to try the case to a jury, he or she is highly unlikely to get the best possible settlement offer from the defense. At Berman and Simmons, we prepare our cases to be tried and our opponents know that.

Here is a county by county description of some of the product liability cases we have worked on:

Androscoggin County

-Ladder failure- fall, multiple fractures

-Metal bold failure- eye injury

Aroostock County

-Hay baling machinery- death

-Potato harvesting machinery- arm entanglement

Cumberland County

-Carbon monoxide leak- brain injury

-Farm machinery- hand crush injury

-Ladder failure- fall, skul fracture, brain injury

Franklin County

-Medication defect- failure to warn, birth defect

Knox County

-Soda bottle explosion- loss of an eye

-Bucket loader- transmission control crush injury leading to death

Oxford County

-Rifle defect- drop fire, bullet wound

-Safety equipment failure- severe laceration from chain saw

-Ski binding failure- paralysis

Penobscot County

-Hydraulic cylinder explosion- burns

Sagadahoc County

-Gas explosion- burns

Somerset County

-Gas explosion- burns leading to death

York County

-Saw mill saw blade fragmentation failure- severe lacerations

State of New Hampshire

-Safety equipment failure- defective design of insulated work platform for electrical worker, electrocution, burns leading to amputation and death.

Dangers of Gas Powered Refrigerators

25th November 2010 by John Sedgewick

Danger in Refrigerators Powered by Propane, LP Gas or Natural Gas

Gas powered refrigerators have been in use since at least the 1930s. They are particularly suited for use in places where the electrical grid does not run, such as fishing, hunting and logging camps.  Partly because they are used in remote locations and partly because of the defective design of flues, vents and burners in certain models, gas refrigerators should be considered to be extremely dangerous.

Gas refrigerators can be fueled by natural gas (which is usually mostly methane mixed with other combustible gases), or LP (liquified petroleum) gas, the most common of which is propane. The danger in all of these fuels lies in incomplete combustion, which occurs when either the flow of intake air or the venting of exhaust becomes disrupted. Either problem, or a combination of both, can result in the discharge of carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless and deadly poison.

Sellers of gas refrigerators and government regulators have known for many years that gas refrigerators are prone to vent problems and thus very dangerous. Set out below is a report from the Consumer Product Safety Commission describing particular problems with certain Servel models which have caused many brain injuries and deaths through release of carbon monoxide.

The Servel models described below is just one of many dangerous gas refrigerators.  Several older models from other makers present the same risks to health and safety.  For instance, there have been a number of reported injuries and deaths from carbon monoxide involving the Consul models manufactured by Whirlpool S.A.

Gas refrigerators are most common in remote camps because compressed gas is the easiest fuel to transport into the woods. The remote setting of these camps contributes to the danger of the refrigerators in the sense that they are often used only seasonally. People do not think to service appliances that are used only intermittently, it is expensive and inconvenient to get service personnel in, and long periods of disuse in an environment which goes from extremely hot to extremely cold, and which is often damp, leads to rust, corrosion, dust, cobwebs, and insect nesting. All of these contaminants disrupt air flow and damage burner and vent components, leading to carbon monoxide production.

If you have a gas refrigerator,  you should consider whether it is safe to continue to use it. Service may help eliminate or minimize the risk of serious injury, but that might not be enough.

If you or someone you love has been injured by a gas refrigerator or other gas appliance, you should call Berman and Simmons or another law firm with experience with such cases. We have  handled asphyxiation cases associated with many home appliances in addition to refrigerators, including cook stoves, furnaces and space heaters.

We have also represented many families injured bya different risk associated with LP, propane and natural gas:  explosions.  If a pilot light or other component fails,  or if the seller/delivery person fails to properly test for leaks in the gas distribution system, gas can leak into the living space and lead to catastrophic burns and death.  Visit our website and other entries in this blog for  further information and commentary.

John Sedgewick, Esq.

Berman and Simmons

1 800 244 3576

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

Office of Information and Public Affairs

Washington, DC 20207

July 22, 1998
Release # 98-145

Company Phone Number: (800) 782-7431
CPSC Consumer Hotline: (800) 638-2772
CPSC Media Contact: Ken Giles, (301) 504-7052

1. CPSC, Warns That Old Servel Gas Refrigerators Still In Use Can Be Deadly

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Government safety experts continue to warn consumers to stop using Servel gas refrigerators manufactured between 1933 and 1957 due to the risk of carbon monoxide leakage in deadly quantities.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports there have been at least 39 incidents in the U.S. involving these old Servel gas refrigerators, causing 22 carbon monoxide-related deaths and 55 injuries nationwide. There also have been incidents reported in Ontario, Canada, causing 60 deaths.

Because historical sales and distribution records of these early Servel models are unavailable, it is not possible to determine who still owns and uses these refrigerators. The Servels continue to be used in hunting cabins, vacation cottages and remote areas of the nation where there is no electricity, or where gas is the preferred energy source.

Over a period of time, especially if the refrigerator has not been used recently, the gas burner can be fouled by dust, dirt, rust or other obstructions. Any gas refrigerator with an improperly adjusted or partially plugged burner can produce substantial amounts of carbon monoxide.

Consumers can call the Servel Corrective Action Committee (SCAC) toll free at (800) 782-7431 anytime to receive a rebate package that includes instructions for disposing of their Servel gas refrigerator. Consumers who properly dispose of their old Servels will receive a $100 rebate plus reimbursement for reasonable disposal costs.

Since this recall program was launched in 1990, more than 22,000 refrigerators have been destroyed. On average, 100 new requests for rebates are mailed to SCAC monthly, demonstrating that there are still many more in use.

Consumers who insist on keeping their old Servel refrigerators should move them to an outdoor shelter, shed or garage not connected to the house or cottage. CPSC urges owners to secure or restrict access to refrigerators kept outside and, when discarding any refrigerator, to remove its door. This will prevent children from playing in the refrigerator and possibly getting trapped and suffocating inside.

CPSC advises that all gas refrigerators be serviced regularly by licensed technicians in order to assure their safe operation. They also should be inspected after they are moved and before they are turned on after a seasonal shutdown. Special attention should be paid to blockages in burners and flues.

No longer in business, Servel manufactured gas refrigerators between 1933 and 1957. The Servel refrigerators in question are no longer being produced and are in no way associated with the Dometic Corp., the current manufacturer of Servel brand name products.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of serious injury or death from thousands of types of consumer products under the agency’s jurisdiction. The CPSC is committed to protecting consumers and families from products that pose a fire, electrical, chemical, or mechanical hazard. The CPSC’s work to ensure the safety of consumer products – such as toys, cribs, power tools, cigarette lighters, and household chemicals – contributed significantly to the decline in the rate of deaths and injuries associated with consumer products over the past 30 years.

To report a dangerous product or a product-related injury, call CPSC’s Hotline at (800) 638-2772 or CPSC’s teletypewriter at (301) 595-7054. To join a CPSC e-mail subscription list, please go to Consumers can obtain recall and general safety information by logging on to CPSC’s Web site at