Another Milestone: 500 Posts

Can you believe it?  This post – this very post that you are reading right now – is our 500th blog entry here at Abnormal Use.  We are just as stunned as you are, but we have had such a good time engaging in this blogging business that we nearly lost track.  But here we are, at 500 posts, armed with plans to continue this site well into the future.

As you know, we pause occasionally to reflect upon our milestones at this site.  Earlier this year, in January, we reflected upon our first birthday and shared the (little) wisdom we had learned at that point.

Way back in May of 2010, we commemorated the occasion of our 100th post, an celebration which now seems almost quaint.  At that time, we noted:

It has been just four short months since we unveiled this products liability blog with a formal mission statement. Whereas we feel certain that blogging may come naturally to some, our first foray into the blogosphere was not without some trepidation. Naturally, we asked ourselves: Will there be sufficient source material? But we quickly learned that this was the least of our concerns. Fortunately for products liability bloggers, in the rapid, ever-changing world of litigation, there is rarely a day that passes without something newsworthy, whether it be a new court decision, an interesting verdict, a product recall (an augury of imminent litigation), or a story on a future Plaintiff’s new and “inventive” use of a product that, predictably, went awry. Needless to say, we have found plenty of cases and news items about which to post. We are also proud to have presented several original interviews with law professors in our series which we affectionately call Abnormal Interviews (more of which are to come in the future).

Aw, weren’t we cute at that age? As we write today, we are just two months away from our second birthday (and we’re sure we will pause again that day to reminisce even further on our blogging history). Nostalgia aside, we are encouraged by our progress at this site.  In January of 2010, we were a brand new blog, entirely unknown, and with few friends in the legal blogosphere.  Now, in November of 2011, we have built up a solid archive of posts and have made a number of friends and contacts in this enterprise.  It’s been rewarding to write about the law, as well as other off topic items, and see the responses of you, our dear readers. Certainly, this endeavor would not have been possible without the support of our writers: authors (Phil Reeves, Stephanie Flynn), regular contributors (Nick Farr, Frances Zacher, Steve Buckingham), guest authors (Mary Giorgi, Laura Simons, Mills Gallivan, Childs Cantey Thrasher), and other alumni.  Without their support and hard work, we would have few, if any, posts at this site.

So, on this fateful occasion, we will share with you three things we have learned about the advantages of legal blogging.  A legal blog is often a Herculean task; it requires time, diligence, and patience.  Some firms are dissuaded from the enterprise due to the time commitment, while others throw themselves into the task and quickly burn out.  But, for those who persevere, there are rewards.

So here’s our purported wisdom:

1.  A legal blog raises your firm’s profile.  This is something that Mark Hermann, formerly of the Drug & Device Law blog, noted in his “Memoirs of a Blogger.”  It is certainly true, as we here at Abnormal Use have been cited by a number of legal publications that have taken notice of this site, including The New York Times, NPR,  Scientific American, and a whole host of regional newspapers, law blogs, and other publications.  (We were even invited to host a webinar!) It is unlikely these sources would have mentioned or contacted our firm under those circumstances absent our blogging effort.

2.  It’s an entirely new way to network with other attorneys across the nation.  Really, blogging is a hobby as much as it is a business development mechanism.  Legal bloggers tend to have similar interests, and the shared interest in blogging is often a great way to break the ice, either online or in real life.  Accordingly, as we have noted before, this site has enabled us to network with and meet lawyers across the country that we would not have met otherwise.  That’s a good thing, for networking purposes, but also because it allows us to meet interesting people with similar interests irrespective of potential business development efforts. That’s not so bad, right?

3. As we work to bring you new legal content at this site, we are also learning new things ourselves, allowing us to keep informed of the latest products liability developments across the land.

Plus, it’s loads of fun. We here at Abnormal Use enjoy bringing you legal commentary and fun links on Fridays.  We hope you will continue to stay with us as we continue this enterprise, and we thank all of you, our dear readers, for your support over these last nearly two years.

Dedman on Dedman v. Dedman (1927)

Legal research can be our bread and butter.  Often, we scour the reported opinions, sometimes chancing across decades old opinions chronicling long ago cases argued by long dead attorneys.  It’s interesting, sometimes, to think that those lawyers from days gone by were just as invested in and frustrated by their cases as we are here today, although it’s difficult to feel a connection to the ancient facts and archaic language.  Too much time has passed. However, I recently re-visited a 1927 case with an intriguing family connection:  Dedman v. Dedman, 155 Tenn. 241, 291 S.W. 449 (Tenn. 1927). Yep, I’m a Dedman, too, and the parties to that 80 year old case are my relatives.

The suit was brought by Plaintiff Mrs. Elizabeth Fariss Dedman (my grandfather’s mother) against Defendant Mrs. Joseph M. Dedman (the mother in law of Elizabeth Fariss Dedman). Like so many cases since, the facts centered around an automobile accident.  The plaintiff was injured in an auto accident while riding in a car owned by the defendant and driven by her chauffeur.  Apparently, the the trial court entered a judgment for the plaintiff, which was affirmed by both the court of appeals and the supreme court.

As recited by the Court, the facts were these:

The parties lived in Columbia, Tenn., about 40 miles from Nashville. The plaintiff is the wife of defendant’s son. The defendant had a daughter, Mrs. Henry Moore, also living in Columbia. Shortly before Christmas, 1924, Mrs. Moore had arranged to make a shopping trip to Nashville with some lady friends. It was Mrs. Moore’s intention to go to Nashville on the bus and spend the day. The defendant had been ill, and before leaving for Nashville Mrs. Moore called to find out what her mother’s condition was, and informed her father who answered the telephone that it was her intention to go to Nashville that day if her mother was well enough for her to leave. Mr. Dedman communicated this information to his wife, the defendant, and the latter at once objected to Mrs. Moore and her friends making the trip on the bus. About this time the plaintiff dropped in to ask about defendant, her mother-in-law, and defendant told plaintiff to call up Mrs. Moore and say that defendant desired that Mrs. Moore make the trip to Nashville in Mrs. Dedman’s automobile. Defendant also suggested that it would be a good opportunity for plaintiff to go to Nashville and do Christmas shopping, and suggested that plaintiff join the party. All the ladies agreed to this arrangement, and the defendant directed her chauffeur to get out her car and take the party to Nashville.

Mrs. Moore asked two other ladies in Columbia to make the trip, and they accepted the invitation. The party then started out in defendant’s large closed car. The chauffeur and the plaintiff sat on the front seat. The other three ladies sat on the rear seat. They proceeded about 18 miles along the highway toward Nashville, when in passing through the village of Thompson Station the Dedman car collided with another car at a road crossing and plaintiff received the injuries for which she sues.

The parties lived in Columbia, Tennessee, where both my father and I were born.  It’s strange to read about a family outing in the factual background section of a Tennessee Supreme Court opinion; stranger still to see that one relative was suing another for injuries.

The plaintiff attempted to prove at the trial that the defendant’s chauffeur was negligent and speeding during the outing. The jury apparently agreed, and the brand new Tennessee Court of Appeals – created in 1925 and after the accident at issue – affirmed the verdict. On appeal to the supreme court, there was an issue relating to the defendant’s responsibility for the chauffeur and the extent to which the guest is responsible for her own safety in the automobile. In dealing with the rights and responsibilities of an automobile guest and passenger, the case is not unlike many that we encounter today in transportation litigation. Interestingly enough, the opinion was authored by Chief Justice Grafton Green, currently the record holder for the longest term of service on the Tennessee Supreme Court. In this case, Green wrote that “the question of the guest’s contributory negligence has been held to be one for the jury” and reaffirmed that principle. Wrote he: “Comparing the respective contentions of the parties thus outlined, we are satisfied that reasonable men might differ as to whether the plaintiff acted with ordinary care under the circumstances disclosed–as to whether she conducted herself as a prudent person ordinarily would do. In this plight of the case, the question of her contributory negligence was one for the jury.”

It’s been cited nearly 40 times since 1927, most recently in 1986 (and now by one blog in 2011).

It’s funny to think how many moments of history are captured in our case law.  Of course, I’m not just referring to legal history; rather, I also reference the basic facts of every day life which are recited in court opinions.  Often litigants are arguing about what might be one of the worst or most difficult days of their lives, and if their case reaches the appellate level, then those facts are chronicled for posterity.  How else would I know about an automobile accident in the 1920’s involving my forebears from that era?