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December 07, 2008


Tom Taormina, CMC, CMQ/OE

More Suggestions for Businesses about Product Liability:

If you are in a manufacturing, service or distribution business, sooner or later you are likely to be blind-sided by a product liability claim or a law suit. Most business leaders have never contemplated or anticipated the scenario described in the law suit complaint and their first reaction is shock, followed immediately by denial and anger.
On the other hand, manufacturers and service providers seldom systemically assess their processes, products and services from the perspective of potential risk. It is not our nature to methodically and objectively analyze long-established business procedures when we are preoccupied with dealing with the daily realities of running a business.
Right or wrong, once a product liability or organizational negligence law suit has been filed, the process is lengthy, expensive and can turn executives and employees into bitter and resentful individuals who may never emotionally heal from the process. It is not uncommon for a company to become so obsessed with remediation and defense of a law suit that the personal and financial trauma may be irreversible.
Most successful companies manage from the collective wisdom obtained from the experience of their employees. That is, we have all learned valuable lessons from previous successes and failures and we have selected to adopt the successful methods and have cataloged the failures to avoid repeating them. Unfortunately, this hybrid company culture seldom can foresee the series of events that turned the use of their product or service into a catastrophic incident for a consumer.
In these litigious times, risk abatement and remediation must be replaced with risk “avoidance.” That is, we must learn how to anticipate potential risk and build into our processes key tools that shield the consumer from any potential of catastrophic failure.
The preventive approach to risk avoidance is to proactively perform a structured holistic assessment of your business similar to how medicine uses a CAT scan to diagnose disease hiding within our bodies. The procedure requires that everyone in the organization subject their methods and processes to clinical examination with the real possibility that there may be cancerous cells that we would rather not confront, admit to or treat surgically. Most business executives strenuously resist committing resources to the process of self examination of long-established business methods that they perceive as being successful, stable and reliable. To compound denial, most successful business leaders pride themselves as being problem solvers. I have never found one who boasted about being a problem “avoider.”
It requires uncommon courage by business leaders to assess their businesses for systemic disease and eradicate it with tenacity and finality. It requires driving any signs of mediocrity from the organization just as you would remove pre-cancerous cells from your body.

Tom Taormina, CMQ/OE, CMC

[email protected] www.taorminagroup.com

B Bostick

I have been making stupid calls for years. It's nice to know there is a name for it. I know one attorney who used to announce his ignorance at the beginning of a case by asking if we could help him "get current on my confusion." I think the "stupid call" principle works in all sorts of situations and should be applied whenever and wherever possible. It's cousin is the Detective Columbo approach which works very well with the jury.

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Good is good and bad is bad
You don't know which one you had
She put your books out on the sidewalk
Now they're blowing 'round

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