Today, after 25 years of labor by countless volunteers on a succession of hard-working bar committees, the new Georgia Evidence Code was passed.  Unless I’m in court somewhere, I expect to be present when it is signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal. Appropriately enough, he sponsored an earlier version of the bill in the State Senate in 1990.

The new Evidence Code replaces a hodgepodge of case law largely derived from the Code of 1863. It is based upon the Federal Rules of Evidence which were enacted in 1975 and have been adopted in some form in 42 states including all states contiguous to Georgia.

The politics of this has been fascinating and totally inappropriate for me to detail in a blog post.

Kudos to House Judiciary Committee Chair Wendell Willard and Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Bill Hamrick, a heavy majority in both houses of the legislature, and current State Bar President Lester Tate, who carried the ball over the goal line despite a pair of last minute "poison pill" amendments. Georgia State Law School professor Paul Milich, who has served many years as Reporter of the Evidence Study Committee, has done much of the heavy lifting and deserves credit. I would be remiss to overlook the roles played by Ray Persons and Tom Byrne as chairs of the Evidence Study Committee and by nearly every State Bar president since the late 1980s.

Of course there are those of us who are happy to practice law with or without the new evidence code, and some who late in their careers don’t want to learn anything new. However, it is based upon the Federal Rules of Evidence which nearly all lawyers under 60 studied in law school. With its incorporation of several features unique to Georgia law, I think it is an improvement upon both the hodgepodge of Georgia evidence law and the Federal Rules of Evidence. All in all, it is a net gain for the justice system in Georgia.

Click here for Professor Milich’s summary of the new Evidence Code.

Those ugly and ubiquitous Crocs shoes — and the cheaper knockoffs — have been involved in an international wave of serious injuries to the feet of young children on escalators.

At first I was skeptical when I began hearing last year of kids’ toes being mangled on escalators at the Atlanta airport. However, this article from Consumer Reports lays it out.  Safety organizations in the U.S. and Japan have issued warnings about  Crocs and other soft-sided clogs posing safety hazards to escalator riders. Typically, the shoe becomes entrapped when the rider is stepping on or off the escalator or standing too close to the side. 

The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that 77 escalator entrapment incidents have been reported since January 2006, half of which resulted in injury. All but two of the incidents involved soft-sided flexible clogs and slides such as Crocs. The CPSC doesn’t reference the brand Crocs in its announcement but acknowledges that Crocs fall into the category of soft shoes they are warning about. In Japan, where 3.9 million pairs of Crocs were sold last year, the Trade Ministry asked the Colorado-based maker of Crocs to change the design of its shoes after receiving 65 complaints of Crocs and Crocs knockoffs becoming stuck in escalators between June and November of 2007.

Crocs is naturally pointing to every other possible cause of these injuries, including loose shoe laces (no laces on Crocs), escalator design, "improper use," etc. The CPSC joins in the obfuscation by issuing a long list of every possible rule for use of escalators known to humankind. I have noticed signs at the Atlanta airport that take the same broad, vague approach.

Most of the incidents appear to involve little children on escalators, often in airports where they are tagging along with parents in a hectic, somewhat unfamiliar environment where parents are likely to be in a rush, managing carry-on bags, and perhaps not totally focused on how the children are amusing themselves on escalators. Little feet in little, soft-sided shoes are more vulnerable to getting caught in the mechanism that bigger feet.

Interestingly, I haven’t seen any comparable stories of essentially bare feet in flip flops or sandals, or feet clad in sneakers or other lace up shoes, being injured on escalators.   I don’t know of any statistical analysis of the risk of escalator injuries in Crocs, and expect that any product liability suit against the manufacturer would be met with a barrage of pseudo-scientific studies sponsored by the company, and exhaustive Daubert motions to exclude any evidence for the injured children.

However, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, maybe it’s a duck. If I still had young children, I would decide for them what my college kids have apparently decided for themselves: don’t buy those "(expletive deleted) ugly shoes." At minimum, I wouldn’t let them wear them when going to places with escalators.  There are plenty of other shoe styles that can be slipped off and on easily at airport security that don’t present a known risk of injury.  If bigger kids or adults, with bigger feet and more discretion, want that style, that’s their choice.

As a trucking trial attorney, I see it all too often.  And now again.  Early yesterday morning a tractor trailer loaded with sand ran a stop sign in south central Florida, striking a van on the right side. and killing six men.  According to an Associated Press report by Christine Armario, investigators were still trying to determine while the West Coast Aggregate 18-wheeler failed to stop for the stop sign. Authorities were still seeking to identify the six victims who were thought to be HIspanic.

Cristela Guerra and Janine Zeitlin of the Fort Myers News-Press

reported that the tractor-trailer was  hauling sand out of Ortona Sand Co., five to six miles from where the accident occurred.  The van, registered to a farm labor contractor, was not authorized to transport farm workers and had not passed vehicle safety inspections. 

According to USDOT information, West Coast Aggregate Haulers is based in Venice, Florida, and reports operation of only one power unit, hauling aggregate on interstate trips only. In the past 24 months West Coast Aggregate had two truck inspections, failing one of them. 

Florida requires only $300,000 liability insurance for trucks of intrastate haulers with a gross vehicle weight of 44,000 to 80,000 pounds, compared with the minimum $750,000 required for interstate truckers and the measly $100,000 required for intrastate haulers in Georgia.  However, we often find in Georgia that trucks hauling timber and  building materials such as sand actually carry $1 million liability coverage due to contractual requirements.

A Florida truck driver admitted that he was on his cell phone yesterday when he slammed into a school bus, killing a 13-year-old student. According to a report by Austin Miller of the Ocala Star-Banner, the school bus, which had stopped to let children off , had its warning lights on and stop signs out. The truck driver said he never saw the bus. He  failed to stop for it and rammed the school bus forward 294 feet. The bus was fully engulfed in flames. 

See our recent posts on cell phone distractions and the absence of seat belts on busses.