Resources Opportunities Reviewed by mikeholy


									                   Resources & Opportunities Reviewed

       We drive them every day—cars, trucks and sport utility
                                                                 by Margaret Lucas Agius, CLA
                                                                                 Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966 and the Highway
 vehicles. Some legal assistants defend them every day as well.                  Safety Act of 1966. The Vehicle Safety Act has
       In the area of automotive product liability, there are some               subsequently been recodified under Title 49 of the
 helpful resources that are assets both to rookies and veteran para-             U. S. Code in Chapter 301, Motor Vehicle Safety.
                                                                                 NHTSA also carries out consumer programs
 legals, whether working for defendants or plaintiffs. There also
                                                                                 established by the Motor Vehicle Information and
 are employment opportunities that may be of interest to legal
                                                                                 Cost Savings Act of 1972, which has been recod-
 assistants interested in automotive product liability. A review of
                                                                                 ified in various Chapters under Title 49.
 these resources and opportunities is offered here, along with some
 examples of how legal assistants are utilized in this area of the law.          NHTSA is responsible for reducing deaths, injuries
                                                                                 and economic losses resulting from motor vehicle
 References and Resources                                                        crashes. This is accomplished by setting and
       One challenge for a legal assistant working in the                        enforcing safety performance standards for motor
 automotive product liability arena is learning the engineering                  vehicles and motor vehicle equipment, and
 terms, jargon, and the “alphabet soup” of acronyms. A chart                     through grants to state and local governments to
 of some commonly used acronyms, including definitions and                       enable them to conduct effective local highway
 associated Web sites, is provided with this article to help in                  safety programs.
 mastering the vernacular.
                                                                                 NHTSA investigates safety defects in motor vehi-
       The acronym that stands out from the rest, and will
                                                                                 cles, sets and enforces fuel economy standards,
 become a key part of the automotive product liability parale-
                                                                                 helps states and local communities reduce the
 gal’s vocabulary, is NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety                     threat of drunk drivers, promotes the use of safe-
 Administration). The NHTSA Web site at                       ty belts, child safety seats and air bags, investi-
 offers a wealth of information, including compliance testing,                   gates odometer fraud, establishes and enforces
 consumer complaints, defect investigations, recalls, and techni-                vehicle anti-theft regulations and provides con-
 cal service bulletins.                                                          sumer information on motor vehicle safety topics.
       As described at the Web site, NHTSA is charged with a
 broad range of responsibilities:                                               Another acronym that is part of every automotive product
                                                                          liability legal assistant’s vocabulary is VIN (Vehicle Identifica-
        The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration                tion Number). A VIN is to a vehicle what a Social Security
        (NHTSA), under the U.S. Department of                             number is to a U.S. citizen. There are a number of Web sites
        Transportation, was established by the Highway                    that offer free, basic information (e.g., year, manufacturer,
        Safety Act of 1970, as the successor to the                       country of assembly, model, style and body type, and engine)
        National Highway Safety Bureau, to carry out                      about a vehicle based only on its VIN.
        safety programs under the National Traffic and

12    FA C T S & F I N D I N G S / AU G U S T 2 0 0 3
      Two sites that offer this information are              Assist attorney by performing various duties relating to             legal procedure and substantive areas of law which would other-
01, and Auto Check at                  wise be handled by the attorney. Work involves individual judg-
autocheck/jsp/home.jsp?&414=706.                                     ment, initiative and resourcefulness with minimum supervision
      More detailed reports are available for a fee, with a single   and direction. Conducts legal research (includes cite checking,
report costing less than $20 from either service. Unlimited          Shepardizing, utilization of Lexis, etc.); compiles documents for
access to detailed reports for a specified period of time (gener-    inclusion into and knowledge of computerized litigation sup-
ally 60 days) ranges from $19.99 to $23.95. A paralegal may          port systems; gathers and analyzes factual and business data;
wish to use this type of service to acquire information not only     prepares legal documents in various specialized areas of law for
about the vehicle he or she is defending, but about other vehi-      attorney; prepares name, subject matter and chronological files;
cles involved in the accident as well.                               frequent contact with others outside the work group.
      If you don’t know a snap-ring from a solenoid, a glossary
of automotive terms is invaluable. The glossary of more than              Ford Motor Company, Dearborn, MI, ran two job
400 automotive terms at the iCARumba website, at                     postings for legal assistants on America’s Job Bank at Education and experience requirements
sp. will help you speak “mechanic” like a true gear-head. The        for both positions included a four-year degree with a legal assis-
easy-to-understand definitions and illustrations are adapted         tant major from an ABA-approved program, or a four-year degree
from Chilton’s Easy Car Care.                                        plus certificate from an ABA-approved program, or a four-year
      There are many other useful websites that can be found         degree plus at least five years of related paralegal experience.
with a bit of browsing.                                                   The first Ford position, in consumer litigation was
                                                                     described as follows:
      Paralegal jobs in automotive product liability defense         •   Manage a caseload of nationwide warranty and lemon
could be anywhere in the country, but Detroit is the obvious             lawsuits under supervision of an attorney.
                                                                     •   Work with outside counsel to analyze case issues and
hot spot. Major law firms in the Detroit area, and throughout
                                                                         evaluate cases for resolution.
the country, count the “Big Three” auto manufacturers among
                                                                     •   Locate and obtain required company information.
their top clients. Most of these firms employ paralegals.            •   Learn federal warranty statutes and state lemon-law
      The Big Three have all run Internet job postings for legal         statutes for assigned area of coverage.
assistants this year. Not all of them were in product liability,
but following are some examples.                                     The second Ford position, in product litigation was described
                                                                     as follows:
      DaimlerChrysler Corporation, Auburn Hills, MI, ran two
postings for paralegals on the Michigan Talent Bank at               •   Work closely with case handler and outside counsel to                     analyze case issues and evaluate cases for assessment.
Page. Education and experience requirements were an associ-          •   Review 90-day reports from outside counsel, and locate
ate’s degree (bachelor’s preferred), and two years of experience.        and obtain additional information when necessary.
                                                                     •   Prepare and update LMMS reports.
      1. Assist in-house counsel in general litigation department.   •   Locate and obtain company documents and information.
Position includes analyzing legal issues, obtaining information      •   Locate and interview company personnel, including retirees.
and preparing written responses to discovery and third party         •   Coordinate scheduling of depositions of current and retired
subpoenas in various types of litigation—employment, com-                company employees within the various engineering groups.
mercial, bankruptcy, and general and auto liability, managing        •   Assist in compiling accident facts and vehicle information.
files, legal research, communicating with outside counsel,           •   Review and monitor outside expert budgets and bills from
coordinating company depositions.                                        outside counsel and prepare purchase orders for payment
      2. Receive service of process of legal documents; review           and case handler approval.
and analyze the documents and record essential information           •   Process and obtain case settlement checks in a
electronically; identify departments to which the documents are          timely fashion.
directed; and transmit documents to that department in a             •   Assist case handler in ensuring that major cases are
timely manner.                                                           identified and reviewed by the Trial Preparedness
                                                                         Committee and handled appropriately throughout the
    General Motors Corporation, Detroit, MI, also ran a                  course of litigation.
Michigan Talent Bank posting that required a bachelor’s degree.      •   Possible travel is involved.
                                                                                                                   continued on page 14

                                                                                FA C T S & F I N D I N G S / AU G U S T 2 0 0 3      13
Automotive Product Liability
continued from page 13

       In addition to these types of opportunities, legal staffing          Hogan & Hartson, Washington, DC
  agencies supply the Big Three with contract or temporary,                 Lightfoot, Franklin & White, Birmingham, AL
  direct hire, and temp-to-perm paralegals. Some familiar                   Marshall, Dennehey, Warner, Coleman & Goggin,
  agencies include:                                                              Philadelphia, PA
                                                                            McGlinchey Stafford, New Orleans, LA
       The Affiliates (                  McGlynn & Luther, St. Louis, MO
       Contract Counsel (                   Quale, Feldbruegge, Calvelli, Thom & Croke,
       Kelly Law Registry (                        Milwaukee, WI
       Paralegals Plus Placement Service                                    Sanchez & Daniels, Chicago, IL
            (                       Sedgwick, Detert, Moran & Arnold, San Francisco, CA
       Special Counsel (                     Snell & Wilmer, Phoenix, AZ
                                                                            Sutter, O’Connell, Mannion & Farchione, Cleveland, OH
  Legal Assistants Rule!                                                    Swanson, Martin & Bell, Chicago, IL
        The firm of Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone is the              Swift, Currie, McGhee & Hiers, Atlanta, GA
  largest law firm in Michigan and one of the nation’s leading              Webster Szanyi, Buffalo, NY
  firms in its specialty areas. The firm’s Product Safety Group
  works with DaimlerChrysler Corporation in responding to dis-              Legal assistants are an integral part of the automotive
  covery in product liability and warranty litigation, and assists     product liability defense team, and are employed extensively
  with discovery in class action and patent matters. Legal assis-      and effectively. Paralegals looking for a field that is rich with
  tants outnumber the attorneys in this group.                         interest, busy with activity, and bristling with challenge would
        Headquarters for this practice group is the firm’s office in   do well to investigate this area as a career option.
  Troy, MI, where the main responsibilities are written discovery
  responses, document production, and dispute resolution in                  Margaret Lucas Agius, CLA, is an automotive product liability
  both product liability and warranty litigation matters. The          defense paralegal with the Miller, Canfield, Paddock, and Stone firm’s
                                                                       Ann Arbor, MI, office of the Product Safety Group. She has been a
  group also has two attorneys and one legal assistant in the          legal assistant for more than a decade. She holds a B.S. Degree
  firm’s office in Ann Arbor, MI, who work primarily on Jeep           (with Highest Honors) from Madonna University’s ABA-approved
  and rollover cases. Computer litigation support duties, includ-      Legal Assistant Program, and earned her CLA in 2000. Margaret is
  ing involvement in development and maintenance of the prac-          an active member of NALA, and
  tice group intranet, and database creation and maintenance           the Legal Assistants Section of the
                                                                       State Bar of Michigan, for which
  also fall to the legal assistants.
                                                                       she has served as a section coun-
        As national discovery counsel for DaimlerChrysler              cil member. She is also the imme-
  Corporation’s Product Liability and Warranty Litigation mat-         diate past editor of the Michigan
  ters, the firm’s Product Safety Group paralegals work closely        Legal Assistant, for which she has
  with DaimlerChrysler Corporation’s in-house legal assistants, as     written a number of articles. Prior
  well as paralegals from law firms around the country. These          to joining Miller Canfield, she was
                                                                       employed by the State of Michigan
  firms serve as local counsel for DaimlerChrysler Corporation         Attorney Discipline Board for 11
  in product liability and warranty litigation, and most of them       years, nine of which were as the
  employ legal assistants in their automotive product liability        board’s legal assistant.
  practices. The firms include
        Bourdeaux and Jones, Meridian, MS                    
        Clark, Thomas & Winters, Austin, TX
        Cornell & Gollub, Boston, MA
        Cunningham, Harpool & Cordonnier, Springfield, MO
        Feeney Kellett Wienner & Bush, Bloomfield Hills, MI
        Grace, Genson, Cosgrove & Schirm, Los Angeles, CA
        Hall & Evans, Denver, CO
        Hanlon, Boglioli & Hanlon, Edison, NJ
        Herzfeld & Rubin, New York, NY
        Hill, Ward & Henderson, Tampa, FL

14     FA C T S & F I N D I N G S / AU G U S T 2 0 0 3
                                               Commonly Used Acronyms
Acronym   Definition                                                 Web Site (if applicable)
8D        Eight Discipline Problem Solving Method and Report
ACAS      Automotive Collision Avoidance System            
AIAG      Automotive Industry Action Group                 
AIAM      Association of International Automobile Manufacturers
ASTM      American Society for Testing and Materials       
BAC       Blood Alcohol Concentration
BTS       Bureau of Transportation Statistics              
CAMP      Crash Avoidance Metrics Partnership              
CDS       Crashworthiness Data System                      
CI        Compliance Investigation
CIREN     Crash Injury Research and Engineering Network    
CODES     Crash Outcome Data Evaluation System             
DOT       U.S. Department of Transportation                
DVI       Driver-Vehicle Interface
EA        Engineering Analysis
EDV       Engineering Development Vehicle
FARS      Fatality Analysis Reporting System               
FHWA      Federal Highway Administration                   
FMCSA     Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration      
FMEA      Failure Mode Effects Analysis                    
FMVSS     Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards           
GES       General Estimates System                         
GVWR      Gross Vehicle Weight Rating
IAOB      International Automotive Oversight Bureau        
IIHS      Insurance Institute for Highway Safety           
IS                                                                   Impact Simulator (or Simulation) Test
ITS       Intelligent Transportation System                
LTVs      Light Trucks and Vans
MSDS      Material Safety Data Sheet
NADS      National Advanced Driving Simulator              
NASS      National Automotive Sampling System              
NCAC      National Crash Analysis Center                   
NHTSA     National Highway Traffic Safety Administration   
NTSB      National Transportation Safety Board             
OEM       Original Equipment Manufacturer
P/N       Part Number
PAR       Police Accident Report
PCR       Police Crash Report
PCs       Passenger Cars
PE        Preliminary Evaluation
QS-9000   Quality System 9000                              
SAE       Society of Automotive Engineers                  
SCI       Special Crash Investigations                     
TREAD     Transportation Recall Enhancement,
          Accountability, and Documentation Act            
TSB       Technical Service Bulletin                       
UMTRI     University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute
UTQG      Uniform Tire Quality Grading                     
VC        Vehicle Crash Test
VIN       Vehicle Identification Number
VOQ       Vehicle Owner Questionnaire                      
VRTC      Vehicle Research and Test Center                 

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