Will marijuana legalization lead to a surge in product liability lawsuits

Legal recreational marijuana is looming in Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has urged nationwide legalization by summer 2018, though the provinces have expressed varying degrees of doubt in their ability to hit that mark. In the meantime, legal experts including Ontario personal injury and product liability lawyers are preparing for what may be a “wild west” legal landscape.

Product liability claims are a very real potential outcome of marijuana’s impending legalization. In fact, one class action lawsuit has already materialized in New Brunswick. According to Global News, roughly 2,000 individuals purchased cannabis products containing two banned pesticides – myclobutanil and bifenazate – from Organigram Inc. in Moncton last year. The product liability lawyers that launched the claim allege that both chemicals are toxic and could result in serious health effects.

On the west coast this August, Broken Coast Cannabis Ltd., a medical marijuana producer based on Vancouver Island, issued a recall for three batches of dried cannabis produced and sold in 2016 after Health Canada spot checks revealed – once again – two banned pesticides. Though none of Broken Coast’s patients came forward to report an illness, the event highlights the potential for legal action stemming from improper production of legal marijuana.

“From a patient’s perspective, it’s concerning if there’s any unauthorized substances found in cannabis. Patients are using this as a medicine so it needs to be safe and reliable,” Jonathan Zaid, head of Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana, told the Globe and Mail.

“At the same time,” he added, “it is good to see that the recalls can happen because it shows accountability within the system. But, obviously, we’d like to see it happen much sooner so that patients haven’t already consumed product and that testing is done on a much more pro-active basis.”

Speaking with The Lawyer’s Daily for an August 31 article, a number of product liability lawyers emphasized that marijuana producers will be held to the same standard as other products.

“If you sell tainted meat … there will be a class action, so it’s no different from tainted marijuana. It’s no different than beef … or any product,” said Windsor’s Harvey Strosberg. “The law is the same for any ingestible product. If it’s not constructed or grown properly or harvested properly or packaged properly, there can be a class action.”

If you or a member of your family has been injured by a faulty or defective product of any kind, feel free to contact Will Davidson LLP’s product liability lawyers to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation.


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Can insurance brokers help drivers cope with Ontario’s reduced accident benefits coverage?

For years, the Government of Ontario has promised to lower auto insurance rates, a goal that consumers – and car accident lawyersbroadly supported. In September 2010, the province introduced sweeping changes to the auto insurance system that significantly reduced basic coverage. According to a Toronto Star article from August of that year, the insurance industry insisted that “the changes are needed to root fraud and waste out of the system, and that, if successful, premiums will eventually come down.”

In 2013, following the failure of that scheme, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced a plan to reduce premiums by an average of 15 per cent by August 2015, a “stretch goal” that was never accomplished. Last summer, the government again slashed basic accident benefits coverage in the name of insurance affordability. We discussed those changes – and how car accident lawyers in Ontario reacted to them – on the WillDavidson.ca blog.

Today, despite drastic benefits cuts and a modest premium reduction from 2013 levels, Ontario maintains the highest average insurance rates in Canada. To make matters worse, a large number of drivers don’t understand the risks posed by the province’s shifting insurance regulations.

According to a recent study, almost a quarter of Ontario drivers remain unaware of the changes that came about in 2010, and the study’s authors believe insurance brokers are ideally suited to educate the public.

“Insurance brokers need to make drivers more aware that optional coverage is available and that it’s relatively inexpensive,” Kitchener lawyer Robert Deutschmann told Insurance Business Canada. “It’s like a public service that the brokers need to be on top of.”

Deutschmann is referring to the fact that though mandatory accident benefits have been cut under recent provincial regulations, affordable additional insurance is available that would largely replace the lost benefits. Though car accident lawyers can help injury victims access compensation, insurance brokers are better positioned to encourage preventative coverage.

“Based on our survey findings, at least 70% of drivers have not had a conversation with their insurance provider about the additional coverage options available to them,” Deutschmann said.

Serious injuries can have life-changing impacts – if you or a member of your family has suffered an injury in an automobile accident, consider contacting the experienced car accident lawyers at Will Davidson LLP today to set up a consultation. Our knowledgeable team can help you better understand your legal position and advise you on your best path to recovery and compensation.


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Autonomous vehicles could make our streets safer, but hurdles remain

Experts in the automotive industry – including some car accident lawyers – believe autonomous vehicles will ease congestion and greatly improve road safety by transferring control from humans to machines that communicate constantly with the vehicles around them and do not suffer lapses in judgment, drive while intoxicated, or become distracted.

Getting these vehicles on the roads isn’t as simple as rolling them off the assembly line and into consumers’ driveways, however. Managing the slow – but probably inevitable – integration of autonomous vehicles onto Canadian roads is a delicate process, and one that is currently bogged down by legislative complications.

Take the new Audi A8, for example. According to the Globe and Mail, it will be the first Level 3 autonomous vehicle available for sale to the public, meaning it can take over driving in certain situations. In Canada, however, it would be illegal to operate on public roads.

“This is the reason why we need changes in road traffic laws, because currently the driver is responsible, fully responsible for any action,” Martin Siemann, a lawyer for Audi’s corporate legal service, told the Globe.

Today, Level 2 autonomous vehicles, which assist drivers but don’t assume full control of the car, are available and in use on Canadian roads. New laws will have to be passed before Level 3 vehicles are permitted, and by that time Level 4 vehicles, which can negotiate emergency situations even when the driver is unconscious, may be available. In other words, Canadian lawmakers are struggling to keep up with the rate of technological acceleration.

That doesn’t mean that the provincial and federal governments aren’t taking the issue seriously; they, like car accident lawyers, know the potential benefits of eliminating human error from the roads.

The federal Senate Standing Committee on Transport and Communications is currently conducting a “study on the regulatory and technical issues related to the deployment of connected and automated vehicles.” Important stakeholders like the Canadian Automobile Association, General Motors, the RCMP, and Ford and Toyota have all contributed to the study. The provincial ministries of transportation are also studying the issue, and collaborating with the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, the Globe reports.

These groups must address a variety of safety issues, including lapses in driver engagement, transitions between driver- and machine-control, and the interaction between autonomous and traditional vehicles. As solutions are agreed upon, expect to see more automobiles with higher levels of autonomy on roads near you.

If you or a member of your family has been injured in a traffic accident, contact the car accident lawyers at Will Davidson LLP today to learn how we can help.


Photo credit: Steve Jurvetson/Wikimedia Commons

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